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Wild Oats Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Larkin Type: poem Views: 3

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About twenty years ago

Two girls came in where I worked -

A bosomy English rose

And her friend in specs I could talk to.

Faces in those days sparked

The whole shooting-match off, and I doubt

If ever one had like hers:

But it was the friend I took out,

And in seven years after that

Wrote over four hundred letters,

Gave a ten-guinea ring

I got back in the end, and met

At numerous cathedral cities

Unknown to the clergy. I believe

I met beautiful twice. She was trying

Both times (so I thought) not to laugh.

Parting, after about five

Rehearsals, was an agreement

That I was too selfish, withdrawn

And easily bored to love.

Well, useful to get that learnt,

In my wallet are still two snaps,

Of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.

Unlucky charms, perhaps.


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

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Ambiguity is the essence of the poem. And for that matter, the essence of Larkin. Irony is abundant in the sense he does not actually 'sow wild oats' as much as much as pursue mild flirtations. Also, the euphemistic dictum is generally recommended and typically followed by marriage, another element that is missing in the poem. Overall, the poem reflects on the failure of relationships because of objectification of the bosomy rose, and consolation being the only reason for company with the friend. Larkin implicitly brings out the distinct characters of lust and love, and the failures and successes associated with it.

| Posted on 2017-04-12 | by a guest

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Wild Oats is a poem by Philip Larkin, considered by many to be one of the greatest English poets to have lived.
The title of the poem itself indicates the theme of the poem. "Sow some wild oats" was a common euphemism, encouraging men to have multiple sexual encounters with various women before they got married. This, supposedly ensured that the man would remain faithful to his wife, given how his sexual needs had already been satisfied by other women.
The persona in the poem is assumed to be Larkin himself. He is narrating an incident from his life. In this poem, Larkin appears to feel inferior and unconfident of himself from the start. He describes how two women came to his work place, and how although one was stunningly beautiful (Larkin calls her "A bosomy English rose" who had a face so beautiful that he doubted "if ever one had like hers.") He decided to begin a romantic relationship with her "friend with specs", who the persona found it easier to talk to. We can assume that the persona is intimidated by the beauty of the woman, and so he decides to take out her less good looking friend, thereby avoiding the humiliation of being turned down.
The next stanza in the poem tells us that Larkin and the "friend in specs" continue their relationship for seven years, during which he wrote four hundred letters to her. He also proposed to her with a "ten-guinea ring" which was denied.
Larkin was known to be critical of many social norms, and he was often rebellious when it came to following them. One social norm was that couples who are not married should not enter churches together. This implied that both the man and the women were not chaste and pure in their morals. In this poem, Larkin rebels against this particular norm by taking his lover to "numerous cathedral cities". Their visits were "unknown to the clergy," should it spark any complaints.
During the course of his relationship with the "friend with specs", we learn that Larkin continues to fantasize and pursue the prettier woman ("bosomy English rose"). He met her twice, and he recalls that both the times they met, she was trying "(so I thought) not to laugh."
Larkin describes his parting with his lover (the bespectacled friend) as an agreement that he was "too selfish, withdrawn, and easily bored to love." This tells us that Larkin admits he was frivolous in the relationship, and he maintained an interest in the prettier woman the entire time. Larkin quickly tired of the relationship he was in, possibly losing interest in his lover quite quickly. He writes: "Well, useful to get that learnt," as though the entire relationship of some years was nothing more than a lesson to him. Larkin seems rather dismissive of the outcome of the relationship, and openly admits that he has lost interest in his lover.
The poem ends with Larkin explaining how he still has two photographs of the beautiful woman he met over twenty years ago. In the "snaps," the "bosomy rose" is wearing fur gloves. Many perceive this to indicate that the woman was higher up the social ladder than Larkin was, which could be one of the reasons he did not pursue her. We can also assume that Larkin, being the rebel he was, decided to romance the less obvious option (the "friend with specs.").
Many critics also say that Larkin reveals himself as a misogynist in the poem "Wild Oats," as he writes about women as things to desire. As much as he tries (initially, at least) to resist the beautiful "bosomy rose," he cannot, as in her, he sees an object that will satisfy his needs, as well as an object that is gratifying to look at. Larkin concludes that the photographs of the beautiful woman in his wallet may be "Unlucky charms," as they constantly reminded him that he would succumb to the beauty of the woman, and not be rebellious in this aspect, try as he may. The photographs are also unlucky because he knows that the woman is unattainable to him, yet he continues to relentlessly pursue her and think about her. He realizes that the photographs serve him no purpose but to remind him of his shortcomings, which is why they are unlucky.
The last word of the poem ("perhaps") leaves the reader with an uncertain feel. It implies that Larkin is unsure about his feelings and about the effect that the beautiful woman has on him.
We can therefore conclude that the poem "Wild Oats" is one about social norms and propaganda, and how Larkin is constantly trying to rebel against them, yet he finds this quite hard. He uses an example of having to choose between two women; one very beautiful, and one less beautiful, and how (once he has made his decision of romancing the less beautiful one), he is unable to resist the more beautiful woman. This symbolizes Larkin's struggles with resisting the tendency to conform to society's guidelines and expectations, and exposes Larkin for the slightly insecure and unconfident person he is.

| Posted on 2014-06-15 | by a guest

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Personally I would view this poem as a form of dividing a woman's intellect and sensuality into two separate entities. Larkin clearly regards her 'glasses that he could talk to' as her withdrawn and fairly uptight nature, whereas he views the 'bosomy rose with fur gloves',as said previously on this thread, as a metaphor for her hidden risque eroticism. In this sense, I believe Larkin is indulging in misogynous objectification of women, and tiring of astute, more typically chaste women of the past. This ends in the destruction of his relationship with the spectacled woman/bosomy rose, and the pictures in his wallet, or his 'unlucky charms' serve as a constant reminder, and to some extent burden, of his past lustful abuse.

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

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Arguably this poem is not simply a misogynistic view on woman however is in fact a satirical poem which mocks modernity through quantifying love as expressed in the use of the line 'gave a ten Guinea-ring'. Larkin was a well known hater of the modern world and to an extent the romanticised idea of 'love' as seen in 'Self's the man' and 'Mr Bleaney', so through the use of the conversationalist tone that the persona of the poem creates the reader is presented with the concept of this poem either expressing Larkin's flippantly misogynistic attitude toward women, (through derogatory language 'bosomy Rose') or his cynical satirical view of the modern day ideals of love.

| Posted on 2013-12-18 | by a guest

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The fur gloves symbolize concealment, remoteness, barriers to intimacy, and perhaps a touch of risque eroticism too. The lucky charms reference conveys a sense that it was fortunate the relationship with bosomy rose never developed, perhaps. I revel in Larkin´s ambiguities.

| Posted on 2013-03-12 | by a guest

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We think this has misogynistic attitudes as he objectifies women and referes to them only by their physical features. He also reduces her to her \"fur gloves\".

| Posted on 2011-09-21 | by a guest

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Mann this is a bad poem, a story of two hookers in my opinion.

| Posted on 2011-02-11 | by a guest

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• Both wild oats and Dockery and son have a persona which appears inferior.
• Wild oats says that the choices you make in life have less to do with personal disposition or want, more to do with what you are allowed to do within your social structure. The persona in wild oats doesn’t seem to be in the same social group as the ‘bosomy English rose’ and even though he would rather speak to her, he is forced to speak to the girl in ‘specs’, this is emphasised with the worlds ‘ I could…’ which suggests that he was unable to speak to the other girl. He could also be saying at this point that your appearance may change who you are allowed to do, or who you can talk to. Social bias?
• Hard ‘S’ and ‘C’ sounds create a sense of deflation.
• The word ‘But’ again creates deflation and a sense of regret. Is he saying here that our lack of confidence limits our decisions? ‘so I thought’ – shows a that the speaker doubts his past decisions which were based on a lack of confidence.
• However, he did write over 400 letters to the supposedly ugly girl and even though the relationship didn’t work maybe he is saying here that even if you don’t like the decisions you make at the time, it might work out for the best. There is even a possibility of marriage as a ring is mentioned, but that’s all the marriage reference in the poem.
• The last line ‘unlucky charms, perhaps’ may suggest that there is a sense of mysticism guiding our lives. Can charms effect what happens in our lives!?
• ‘Agreement … I was too selfish, withdraw and easily bored to love’ again shows a lack of self-confidence, the persona has agreed that he is the one at fault. Does a lack of self-belief ruin things as well?
• Playing it safe … the persona goes with the person that he is less intimidated by!
• More sense of fate, the girls me to where he worked, so he didn’t seek them out, they came to him.

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

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I think that he shouldn\'t bang the tidy bird in the cathedral cities as it\'s not very religious..

| Posted on 2011-01-24 | by a guest

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purley a god like man, Philip Larkin is a literacy genius.

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

.: Wild Oats :.

“Wild Oats” by Philip Larkin explains that a person, over the course of time, comes to realize that his greatest desires are unattainable, and second best things will have to suffice. The central purpose of this poem is to show that love is one of these great desires and despite flashes of promise it contains scarcely anything that is more than fragmentary. Through tone, diction, and irony, Larkin reveals the terrible human hopes and cold realities that which love inspires.
The Encarta Dictionary defines the word rose as “a prickly bush with ornamental flowers.” In thinking about roses one pictures its gorgeous petals and often forgets about the prickly stem on which it sits. This word is used in both, the first and third stanzas, to depict the beautiful woman who the narrator falls in love with. Her beautiful face and body allure him into affection, leading him to overlook her harsh “thorns.” Ironically rose also means “favorable, comfortable, or easy circumstances” a definition that is the complete opposite of what the unattainable lover instigates in the narrator’s life. The speaker also uses words such as “cathedral, ring, and clergy” in the second stanza, to implicitly state (does not explicitly state for he is ashamed) that he proposes to the beautiful lover, and is denied many times. In the third stanza, Larkin’s creative use of the word “snaps” in describing the pictures of his lover he carries around. Instead of simply calling them pictures or photographs, he substitutes a word that resembles what the woman in the picture did to his heart!
In the last lines of the first stanza the speaker ends with “But it was the friend I took out.” Considering he rambles on about how beautiful and great her friend it is confusing and ironic that he chooses the girl in specs. The speaker continues on in the second stanza and says “I believe I met beautiful twice.” The uncertainty of how many times he met her is not genuine and is only meant to look like he does not consider or remember how many times they met, when realistically it is all he cares about. In the third stanza the speaker states, “Well, useful to get that learnt.” This is attempt by the speaker to alleviate the cold reality of the complete loss of his desire in trying to say that he learned a valuable lesson about love. However, this is contradictory because he settled for the girl in specs as a result of knowing that the beautiful girl was unattainable from the beginning.

| Posted on 2008-06-09 | by a guest

.: Philip Larkin :.

Philip Larkin: Bracing Rather Than Depressing
Philip Larkin was born August 9, 1922 in Coventry, an industrial city in central England. He was the second son of Sydney Larkin, the city treasurer. He attended King Henry VIII School and then went on to study at St. John’s College in Oxford, where he began to appreciate and explore poetry.
Larkin grew up in an era marked by severe economic depression followed by World War II. The Encycolpedia of World Biography portrays the memories of Larkin’s youth as “sensitive and introspective, full of loneliness and passivity.” These feelings of destitution are reflected in his poems. Although it was nearly impossible for anyone to catch a break during this time period, Larkin was blessed with terrible eyesight, resulting in exemption from the military (206). While the war was still in progress Larkin graduated from St. John’s College in Oxford in 1943 (206). Soon after graduating, Larkin embodied a counteraction to the wartime poetry which he saw as “emotionally overblown and technically sloppy” (207). Larkin not only had to revolutionize the poems but the way the readers experienced the poem as well. In her article “First Boredom, Then Fear: The Life of Philip Larkin” Felicity Walsh explains that Larkin lived in a culture that “expected people to live private lives and have private thoughts.”
Larkin published a series of poems hoping to build a reputation for himself, but they went unnoticed. However, his streak of bad luck soon came to an end. According to the anthology Poetry Speaks, the publication of Larkin’s 1955 volume of The Less Decieved marked one of the most remarkable turnarounds in literary history and instantly established him as the leading poet of a new generation of voices, a group that would come to be known as “The Movement” (262). This group of poets mastered the technique of building strong, unique poems out of the everyday details of life, and Larkin, largely influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy, proved himself a master of this style. “In postwar Britain, Larkin’s starkly and candid lines sparked recognition among a disenchanted generation” (139).
British Writers states that “life, for Larkin and, implicitly, for all of us, is something lived mundanely, with a gradually accumulating certainty that its golden prizes are sheer illusion, that second best things will have to suffice” (275).
In his article “Philip Larkin”, W.S. Di Piero affirms “Larkin’s great subject is romanticism gone sour- in nature, household, and heart. His poems tell us that while we’re born dreamers, we must know our limits and curb unreasonable aspiration, even though we are enticed by its appeal (45). Larkin addresses the sad facts of life: the difficulty, and the loneliness that often proceeds. “Yes in facing these bleak prospects squarely, Larkin manages to be bracing rather than depressing” (139). It is interesting that his poems about how rewards and goals in life are deceptions would in turn fulfill his own ambitions.
Philip Larkin, the acclaimed British poet, received many awards that include honorary doctorates from Oxford University, the CBE, and the German Shakespeare-Preis. He was Chairman of the Booker Prize Panel, was made a member of the Companion of Literature, and served on the Literature Panel of the Arts Council. What lead to such achievement? He filled his works with appropriate, disconcerting humor, mastered the use of diction and imagery, and incorporated his own

| Posted on 2008-06-09 | by a guest

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