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The Whitsun Weddings Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Larkin Type: poem Views: 15

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That Whitsun, I was late getting away:

  Not till about

One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday

Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,

All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense

Of being in a hurry gone. We ran

Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street

Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence

The river's level drifting breadth began,

Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept

  For miles inland,

A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.

Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and

Canals with floatings of industrial froth;

A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped

And rose: and now and then a smell of grass

Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth

Until the next town, new and nondescript,

Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn't notice what a noise

  The weddings made

Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys

The interest of what's happening in the shade,

And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls

I took for porters larking with the mails,

And went on reading. Once we started, though,

We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls

In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,

All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event

  Waving goodbye

To something that survived it. Struck, I leant

More promptly out next time, more curiously,

And saw it all again in different terms:

The fathers with broad belts under their suits

And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;

An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,

The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,

The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.

  Yes, from cafés

And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed

Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days

Were coming to an end. All down the line

Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;

The last confetti and advice were thrown,

And, as we moved, each face seemed to define

Just what it saw departing: children frowned

At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;

The women shared

The secret like a happy funeral;

While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared

At a religious wounding. Free at last,

And loaded with the sum of all they saw,

We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.

Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast

Long shadows over major roads, and for

Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say

  I nearly died,

A dozen marriages got under way.

They watched the landscape, sitting side by side

- An Odeon went past, a cooling tower, And

someone running up to bowl - and none

Thought of the others they would never meet

Or how their lives would all contain this hour.

I thought of London spread out in the sun,

Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across

  Bright knots of rail

Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss

Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail

Travelling coincidence; and what it held

stood ready to be loosed with all the power

That being changed can give. We slowed again,

And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled

A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower

Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Hira Mehmood. About this poem Larkin did claim that this is totally objective poem, he didn't let his self to enter in this poem. i must say that this is a true subjective poem on the part of Larkin because his personal likeness and dis-likeness could be seen in this poem.For marriage he did use the word "Happy funeral", that means the end of life or the freedom of one self and only a bechlor poet could comment such things.

| Posted on 2016-04-16 | by a guest

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I am doing this as a teacher's assessment test in Year 6.This is what I wrote for my second paragraph (what it is about:the important bit).The Whitsun Weddings was inspired by a train journey which the poet made from Hull to London on Saturday...
This is what I wrote so far, any good?

| Posted on 2014-05-04 | by a guest

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I am doing this as a teacher's assessment test in Year 6.This is what I wrote for my second paragraph (what it is about:the important bit).The Whitsun Weddings was inspired by a train journey which the poet made from Hull to London on Saturday...
This is what I wrote so far, any good?

| Posted on 2014-05-04 | by a guest

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I adore this poem. Larkin is describing his rather sardonic view of the Whitsun Weddings he passes, and I feel is very ambivalent. It is this two-sidedness of the poem I especially love: on the one hand he doesn\'t notice it at all, and is amused by the comedy he sees, mocking the grinning and pomaded girls and sweaty, broad-belted fathers. On the other hand he seems to me to be mourning his loss here too. Never married, never able to commit, Larkin was a poet in Hull (so not a great feat professionally either), and whilst he did receive very considerable acclaim as a poet in his lifetime, he has not found at this point deep satisfaction that, just possibly, these couples will. As he moves from vivid technicolour description which I can easily imagine, into his criticism of the lower-class families he has at the back of his mind, I imagine to myself, what he is about to say. He is going to consider how this Frail Travelling co-incidence involves him. He is going to consider how, like a shower of arrows being loosed, these newly weds are about to depart the train excited and happy, as the jaded poet leaves to do who knows what in London - not exciting to him I presume as it is a regular journey I\'d guess from the first line. He sees their trajectory as better than his, possibly? We don\'t know.
I\'d read the introductory stanzas as scene setting atmosphere, the middle as more and more amused wry comment, the end as morose musings with some hope infused.

| Posted on 2013-04-18 | by a guest

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In the penultimate sentence Larkin\'s reference to ...\'an arrow-shower\', is a juxtaposing simile. Larking implies the prevalence of marriage in today\'s society, thus it\'s reference to a \'shower\'. As we know, showers dampen us and don\'t last for very long- the shower of love is inconsistent, like marriage. An \'arrow-shower\' may also be a reference to Roman mythology, Cupid the god of love, emphasising the prevalence of marriage through mystical connotations with Cupid.
Futhermore, because it is referred to as arrows- a deathly, medieval weapon this may also show the setbacks of marriage in the fact that commitment may wound.

| Posted on 2012-11-21 | by a guest

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I hate when people try to find more meanings in a poem than those it actually has...

| Posted on 2011-04-13 | by a guest

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Hello, at first this poem of Larkin\'s was hard to understand. However if you go back and look up his background and then re-read the poem, in my opinion you can clearly see that it includes images of urbanisation in the 1960\'s Britain. It also includes a sense of alienation from the world the protagonist is looking out of the window at. Which is a clear parallel to Larkin who felt out of place in his own society.
It is a nice poem but not my favourite of his.

| Posted on 2011-02-22 | by a guest

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How can anyone say this poem has no flow!
It\'s beautiful, makes me think that grumpy old man is human after all.

| Posted on 2011-01-04 | by a guest

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i am doing this poem as part of my a level and im currently supposed to be writing an essay comparing larkin and abse use of the themes memory and time. i think the conclusion of the train journey is essentially larkins expectation of how the marriages of the couples who have borded the train will turn out; the train moves out of the vibrant and colourful countryside into the dull and repetative urban area then the train comes to a compleat stop. Im interpretation is that this is the dissintegration of a marriage and actually has quite depressing undertones dependant on from the angle from which you view it. i think its much more likely that larkin is going to compleatly rip marriage than support it since he has typically such an antisocial persona on him.

| Posted on 2010-11-12 | by a guest

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I like the way Larkin mirrors the movement of a train through the rythmn and layout of this poem. It seems to me to reflect his slight bitterness at his failure to succeed in a committed relationship: all these weddings serve to remind him of this; these people have something he does not, and so he seeks to demean them.
The intricate details he descibes give the feeling of being shut off from life, and watching from afar, reflecting the way he views all this from a window.
I think, though, that he essentially feels a fondness for life and all these people and their little lives and quirks, and he admires the way that his life and all these strangers\' become intwined for a few moments on the same train, as though, for a time, they travel on the same path through the adventure which is life.
The last two lines are my favourite: they are beautiful. I think they describe both the stopping of the train and the anticipation and excitement he has at the prospect of stepping off the train; ending his journey and perhaps beginning a new life.

| Posted on 2010-10-27 | by a guest

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I think this poem is one of Larkin\'s best. His evocative ways of writing, based on observations of people and the world around him is fascinating when conversed as poetry.

| Posted on 2010-09-29 | by a guest

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This poem takes the reader to experience the journey by its vivid portrayal of minute particulars and changing landscapes. The tension between rural and urban societies pops up but the poet eagerly maintains the impersonal tone. The weddings interest him but cannot earn his wholehearted approval as they represent 'farcical success' only.

| Posted on 2010-07-09 | by a guest

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those were the days, eh? when weddings were over by mid afternoon; the bride changed into her 'going away suit', the happy couple were taken to the station to catch the train and that was it!
nowadays weddings seem to last until the early hours, but I guess the wedding night doesn't have the same significance it used to - not a voyage of discovery, more a trip down memory lane :-)
still love this poem, though

| Posted on 2010-05-04 | by a guest

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If you know, and have previously read Philip Larkin, the audience would know that the poem would not be of love at all, but a critical analysis of the world surrounding Larkin.
Larkin is cynical in his writting, and watches the world from a distance, as he comments about it, without taking part.

| Posted on 2010-04-27 | by a guest

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I'm studying this poem in English lit, and at first I did not get it! But I think that's like most poetry, read it a few times and interpret it in your own way. It's just poetry ! not worth an argument is it?

| Posted on 2010-03-25 | by a guest

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The poem starts and stops like a train, and although to some readers it may be disorientating and ruin the flow of the poem, others may say it adds to the feel of a train journey; always stopping and starting.
I dont agree with the view that it is Larkin's snobbery coming through in this poem, but that is my personal opinion, but do agree completely that its is him "judging other people's lives from a far". In my personal opinion it is about his view from the outside. He is looking out of this train onto these weddings and couples, and being on the train is stopping him from being a part of it from experiencing it. He writes about leaning out of the train further to see them better, but he is never a part of one himself. I think this represent, whether intentional or not, his lack of successful relationships (he was engaged once and had several important relationships after, but upto the writing of whitsun weddings never managed to wed.) To me it represents the starting and stopping of his love life and the journey that would ultimately lead him to where he was meant to go.

| Posted on 2010-01-18 | by a guest

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Even though Larkin is writing from his experience of being on a train on a Whitsun Saturday, is he writing as himself, or as a different character which he is known to do?

| Posted on 2009-10-27 | by a guest

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this is Larkin's bst poem,, here Larkin describes the diff marriages held in whitsunday aftr Easter. Here, Larkin shows hw man n woman puts on clothes n try 2 come up wt d aristocratic way of living.... bt they end up with the phrases "Parodies of fashion"
Larkin's poem begins with a minutely observed description of scenes of contemporary life in bth their rural and urban bckdrops with captivating accuracy he captures the feel of life in England, where the whole scene of landscapeand people is randered wit complete honesty as seen by the poet in the course of his train journey..

| Posted on 2009-06-24 | by a guest

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Learn how to spell criticise before you criticise other peoples opinions....
This poem is not Larkin's best in my personal opinion he is judging other people's lives from a far when he doesn't actually know what it's like to get married or how these people feel. He is making a snobbish remark from an observers view... although he does redeem himself at the end.. this is not his greatest achievement, it shows just how much of a snob he can be, even if his use of imagery and language is amazing.

| Posted on 2009-06-09 | by a guest

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learn how to spell rubbish before you start to try and citise a beautiful poem and the stopping and starting symbolises the stop and starting of the train. i think its a lovely peom about love an starting a new life after marrage.

| Posted on 2009-06-09 | by a guest

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This is a vivid and poignant evocation of life's journey, symbolised by the recurring motif of a train throughout Larkin's collection "The Whitsun Weddings".
Larkin observes, as is so common in his poetry, the newly-weds get on board the train on the journey from Hull to London, King's Cross.

| Posted on 2009-05-18 | by a guest

.: :.

This is a vivid and poignant evocation of life's journey, symbolised by the recurring motif of a train throughout Larkin's collection "The Whitsun Weddings".
Larkin observes, as is so common in his poetry, the newly-weds get on board the train on the journey from Hull to London, King's Cross.

| Posted on 2009-05-18 | by a guest

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this is the rubbisgh poem i have ever read in my life . It doesnt make sense at all !

| Posted on 2009-05-18 | by a guest

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It's rubbish. There is no flow to it, the poem stops, starts and jumps about like a fish out of water. This poem is complex and hard to understand with little meaning.

| Posted on 2008-11-19 | by a guest

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hm... i say,
The Whitsun Weddings” is a poem that consists of 8 ten lined stanzas. The title refers to the Christian tradition of marrying on seventh day after Easter. The rhyme scheme for the poem does like this: ababcdecde. also the second line of each stanza has four syllables; all the others have ten syllables each.

| Posted on 2008-06-19 | by a guest

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