The Whitsun Weddings - Sample Essay
Larkin explores the gap between romantic yearning and disillusioned pragmatism in the lives we lead. Examine what Larkin has to say about this gap in a choice of poems from “The Whitsun Weddings” Philip Larkin wrote to engage his reader in the downsides and apparent depression of a post-war period in which aspirations and hope were high, as well as the romantic yearnings which seemed to be present in the majority of the population. Larkin wrote to explore the gulf between what we expect out of life and what he viewed as what we all have to at some point come to terms with, the disappointment and disillusionment that is life.
Andrew Motion states that “Larkin mirrors and vitalises a continual debate between hopeful romantic yearnings and disillusioned pragmatism. ” This of course refers to the gulf that Larkin writes about so much as well as the continuous debate that goes on between these yearnings for something better and the dreariness of reality. The poem “Sunny Prestatyn” is a good example of Larkins attempt to explore the gap between the grand illusions of happiness, individuality and fulfilment and the realities of these things themselves.
“Sunny Prestatyn” seems to comment on the superficial society that has begun to emerge in the post war period as well as the false hope of life itself which is trying to be sold to the public through a typical holiday poster of the time, which much like the rest of life promises perfection, in a holiday. However Larkin explores the gulf between this disillusionment which is being sold and reality itself through the use of vulgarity. The thing that would strike a reader the most about the poem is the use of vulgarity which Larkin uses to make a comment on the vulgarity of the poster itself and the lies of happiness which are trying to be sold.
The sexual provocative ness is possibly the most noticeable of the vulgarities as it prompts the vulgar language which is used throughout the poem, without one you wouldn’t get the other. The fact the poem is called Sunny Prestatyn could almost be seen as an ironic comment by Larkin on this gulf, it even seems like the poem at first is trying to sell something to the reader rather than draw our attention to our gap between the disillusionment and reality.
The narrative opens with “Come to Sunny Prestatyn” this straight away shows suggestiveness and the girl on the poster is the object of this suggestiveness, “Laughed the girl on the poster,” Larkin would have used this language to make an ironic comment on the people who are buying into this poster, the girl in the poster could be seen as laughing at the cruel irony of the selling of these false realities to the public.
Vulgar language seems to be present throughout the poem but not through adjectives which may typically be viewed in the manner “seemed to expand from her thighs” It seems that in the context normally innocuous words take on sexuality. “Behind her, a hunk of coast. ” This makes no sense, how can a piece of land be described sexually? This just further adds to the poignancy of the use of “breast” and “thigh” and how ridiculous the sexualising of a holiday is.
“A hotel with palms,” the palm trees should not be at the hotel as they are not local to Wales, all this does is add further to the falsities in trying to make something which it is not. This is something which as I said before is seen particularly through the adjectives in this poem. Larkin not only makes harmless words stand out to make a comment on the falsities of reality he also does it through the use of harmless actions.
“Slapped up” adds to the satirical “make up”- this would normally be seen as careless and colloquial language but Larkin deliberately makes it vulgar to expose the gap we all live in between disillusionment and reality. The fact that the whole poem is about a picture is probably the biggest comment on the satirical promises as the poem goes on a journey from “harmless” to “harmful” it moves from something inoffensive “snaggle tooth” too something that can be perceived as offensive “huge tits.
” It has to be exaggerated because the poem itself is not harmful but what is done to the poster and the exposing of lies is what is in fact harmful. This is why “Titch Thomas” does the viewers if the poster a favour by exposing the falsities. He is harmless but whoever stabbed the poster is in fact harmful because they represent the realisation of the gulf romantic yearnings and disillusioned pragmatisms.
“She was too good for this life” This is Larkin really showing us that much like the girl in the poster the dreams she is trying to sell are non existent, lifes realities and what she represents just don’t go together. Then finally to really hit home the point about the false realities Larkin says “Now Fight Cancer is there” in the early 50s and 60s, cancer was pretty much a death sentence, it is a real wake up call at the end to show that reality and the important things in it need to be concentrated on rather than romantic yearnings and false dreams.