Analysis Of "Mr Bleaney" By Philip Larkin

996 words - 4 pages

Write a critical appreciation of the poem making comment on the poetic devices used to create an atmosphere of existential despair.The poem "Mr Bleaney" by Philip Larkin was written in 1955, when the Second World War was still in everybody's mind. It tells the story of a man (probably the poet himself) who rents a room and discovers by looking at the apartment the monotonous life of the person who used to live there Mr Bleaney. By the end of the poem, the man starts identifying himself to Bleaney and finally thinks that his life is not better than his. The atmosphere and the very unusual feeling given by the poem relate the emotions of the poet through an "every man" character: Mr Bleaney. In this essay, I will look at the techniques used by the author to produce this atmosphere of complete depression, by looking more particularly at the various poetic devices.Firstly, the poem reflects the key themes of loneliness and the shallowness of human life through the characters and the thoughts of the poet. The description of Mr Bleaney's character really creates the atmosphere of existential despair. The name Mr Bleaney itself does not have any flavour and sounds monotonous with no strong syllables. This monotony is reinforced by the way the author describes Mr Bleaney and his room. Mr Bleaney is only renting the room suggesting he is quite poor and perhaps weak as renting a room has little status compared to being the owner. In addition, the author uses indifferent words like "they moved him" to refer to his death which shows that he is physically and emotionally dying, but that it does not have any importance. This is reinforced by the fact that in the 6th stanza it says, "But if he stood and watched the frigid wind Tousling the clouds..." meaning Mr Bleaney is like a ghost, perhaps already dead. Further more, Mr Bleaney is described as a man who does not care about his own comforts. The 'upright chair' and 'no hook behind the door' symbolises the fact that he does not care about the beauty and decorations of his room. The use of 'sixty watt' bulb reinforces the idea of a strange glow, reflecting the theme of loneliness and obscurity. The description of the flowered curtains as 'thin and frayed' in addition of the 'fusty bed' evokes the idea of decay and the unimportance of his life. The use of 'one hired box' to describe the room evokes the image of a coffin which emphasizes the feeling of loneliness and death. Larkin gives a description of Mr Bleaney as one of insignificance and he criticises his lack of efforts to decorate his room with offensive words like: 'tussocky, 'littered' and 'upright' suggesting the author does not approve the total depressed attitude of Mr Bleaney. Nonetheless, from the middle of the 3rd stanza it becomes more melancholic.In effect, by looking at Mr Bleaney's life, the protagonist has found a resemblance to his own life. When the man says "so it happens that I lie where Mr Bleaney lay" suggests that he understands he is not superior to of Mr Bleaney, as he too is only renting the room, and he has not made this place a more beautiful place to live than Mr Bleaney. This parallel between their lives is emphasized by the fact that they have both a repetitive lives, each year following the same pathway:" Christmas at his sister's in stoke" and the Frinton folk who put him up for summer holidays". This parallel between both lives reinforces the idea of Mr Bleaney being an "everyman character" as everybody has in a way a resemblance with him if we look carefully at our lives as the protagonist did. This idea that we are all similar and that Mr Bleaney is as everybody permits to the reader to identify himself to the characters and to really dive in this atmosphere of existential despair.This atmosphere of repetition and monotony is present throughout the text by the use of various poetic techniques. The repetitive rhythm, ABAB, represents the monotony and predictable nature of Larkin and Mr Bleaney's life. This is emphasized by the repetitive length of the stanzas (quatrains) and the fact that it has the same number of syllables per line. In addition, the use of the enjambments shows the futility and tedious nature of Mr Bleaney's life. The lack of metaphors and similes makes the poem very close to reality to reflect the boring and unexciting lives of the characters. Further more, the author uses a pathetic fallacy as in the 6th stanza the weather represents the state of mind "the frigid wind" which shows in a poetic way the depressive lives of the protagonists. The various, poetic devices used by Philip Larkin are similar to Mr Bleaney's life, repetitive and not exciting.To conclude, by describing Mr Bleaney's life through his room to show his monotonous and depressive life but also by linking it to the protagonist life (who is probably Larkin himself but also everybody in the world) the poet succeeds to put in place an uncomfortable atmosphere. This is reinforced by the parallel between the poetic devices and the plot of the poem giving the feeling that life is repetitive, useless and therefore it creates an atmosphere of existential despair, reflecting the angst of the period after World War 2.


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