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Where Is The Church Going? A Look At Philip Larkin’s

1252 words - 5 pages

Where is the Church Going? A Look at Philip Larkin?s Church Going Philip Larkin?s poem ?Church Going? is one of debate; there is a debate internal to the poem in that, as much as the narrator wants to dismiss all the custom and ritual involved with going to church, he cannot dismiss the church itself ? he cannot dismiss, nor can he explain, the feeling it gives him. A debate also seems to exist between the poet and the persona he has created in the poem; on the surface ?Church Going? seems critical of the irrationality of religion, yet it also hints that certain changes in society -- the elimination of tradition, and the death of seriousness ? might not be an essentially positive thing. Larkin sees the necessity of church going, and wonders what the world will be like when the churches have been abandoned, when belief itself has been abandoned. Philip Larkin employs many tools in his meandering contemplations of the future of the church, churches and church going, but Larkin?s main weapons in this poem, as well as most of his others, are irony and satire. Larkin?s cynicism, humour and wit, combined with his bleak and dreary imagery, give the poem a very dark and very English feeling.Larkin goes to some length to characterize his narrator, and this narrator doesn?t seem a likely candidate to be philosophizing on the future of religion. A cyclist, the narrator is not properly attired to be going to church. ?Hatless, [he] takes off his cycle-clips in awkward reverence? (8-9); although this quote exposes a certain inappropriateness in the speaker, it ironically lends towards the narrator?s qualifications as well; removing his cycle-clips is an act of respect ? although undoubtedly a strange and whimsical one. The character?s dualism continues in his description of the church?s interior; he can identify most of the sacramental objects within it, which lends to his credentials, but some of his descriptions of them are satirical; he calls the hymnals ?little books? (4), and refers to the altar as ?the holy end? (6). He further satirizes the church in his overly solemn imitation of a service; he preaches to the empty room ?Here endeth? (15).The narrator?s description of the setting is bleak, and leads to a feeling of emptiness; moreover, this emptiness seems not just a physical emptiness, but also a spiritual emptiness in the church, in religion and in society. Right from the start of the poem where the speaker proclaims that there is ?nothing going on? (1), and as the door ?thud[s]? (2) shut, this emptiness is implied. The building is void of signs of life; dead flowers ?cut / for Sunday, brownish now? (4-5), effectively illustrate this. ?And [the] tense, musty, unignorable silence, / [that] Brewed God knows how long? (7-8), is only broken when the narrator?s shout of ?Here endeth? (15) bounces off the walls. This empty room exposes itself as wholly unmystical, and the narrator reflects that it ?was not worth stopping for? (18). He donates an Irish...

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