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In: English and Literature

Submitted By hectorbulmer
Words 1252
Pages 6
A Study of Reading Habits:
A critical appreciation of the poem; identifying its theme, commenting upon its language, form and relationship to other poems in The Whitsun Weddings.

‘A Study of Reading Habits’ is from Philip Larkin’s collection The Whitsun Weddings, and is presented as more a study of habits than reading. Though the poem can be read as a representation of Larkin’s own early relationship with literature, I believe that it is a persona narrating, perhaps close to the author’s voice but not one and the same. It is this persona, its growth from child to man, and its escapist addiction that form the theme. Reading and books play a necessarily large role in the poem but as example habits, or escapist addictions. As many of his poems, ‘A Study of Reading Habits’ is imbued with subjects current to the time; the collection The Whitsun Weddings was compiled in 1964 and the circulation of cheap paperbacks was very much still a new concept. Though it opened up literature to all classes, both in price and availability, Larkin is adamant in indicating both the opportunity it presents in flawing the character of the reader as well as the inherent defects present in society. This is possibly due to the new wave of cheap literature threatening a librarian’s custodian career. Larkin is recognised for his representation of life at its most mundane, as Jean Hartley put it; “ordinary people doing ordinary things”, and infamous for his unmitigated cynicism of that life. ‘A Study of Reading Habits’ is typical in this sense; the persona presented unwittingly self-depredates in full view of the reader in the most mundanely comic of manners, supported by the confused use of the language.

As in many of Larkin’s poems from ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ “A study of Reading Habits” is dedicated to the ordinary. As in “Ambulances”, “Sunny Prestayn” and “Take One Home for the…...

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