A study of reading habits

The style of journeys exists in Philip Larkin’s poem, A Research study of Checking Out Practices. Nevertheless, it is not a physical journey that we see, however a metaphorical journey about the speaker’s life progression through his altering escapisms developed by books. The title is a mock, severe title for it seems like a piece of academic research Larkin uses very first person persona to give expression to things he would prefer not to have credited to himself. The structure of the poem divided into 3 stanzas; academic year, adolescent years and today.

The tone is ironical and colloquial, that in addition to the shorter lines, creates a less serious poem from Larkin. In the first part of his journey, the persona is imaginative and likes to check out, a lot so that is it ‘messing up [his] eyes’. He envisions a fantasy world where he might be cool and ‘deal out the ideal hook to his bullies’. The alliteration of ‘filthy pets’ is significance of the persona’s bullies, which represents them as the villains.

It is the stories, that makes him believe he is invincible, like that of the heroes he checks out.

The stories offer an escapism to which he can be brave, hero, and not the bullied kid to which he remains in reality. There is a smooth, harmonious quality in the beginning verse due to Euphony. This underscored how relaxed and fantasy-like youth can be. The 2nd part of his journey represents his adolescent years.

We now see him with ‘inch thick specs’, which is ironic to him formerly specifying his compassion for reading was ‘ruining [his] eyes’. We see the personality become more gothic and dark, with his new love of Scary Fiction.

‘Cloaks and fangs’ noises harmful and eerie, which is his new escapism. Some critics recommend that ‘ripping’ might be vampire vocabulary however it likewise can refer to being swank. Through his journey through stanza two, we see him proceed to more glossy novels, where his escapism is him being a womanizer. Larkin use borrowed language of ‘clubbed with sex’ and ‘broke them up like meringues’ to create the poet’s whimsical world. The similie refers to his lust for sexual encounters with ladies.

The phrases are quite cheesy and some suggest it is bad writing on Larkin’s behalf, but some argue it is Larkin trying to sound like a bad guy. Larkin is trying too hard to sound like Raymond Chandler’s character, Marlowe, but it just doesn’t work. In the final part of the persona’s journey, which leads him up to the present tense, we see a completely conflicting view of reading. In the final stanza the speaker comes to terms with reality; he can no longer hide behind books.

He realizes that his world is less fulfilling than the fantasies portrayed in books, and says ‘don’t read much now’. He feels betrayed by books and his tone becomes bitter. The ‘yellow’ figure evokes the sense of weakness and represents cowardly characteristics. This metaphor produces the effect of a cowardly character, which evidently relates to the persona. This means he can no longer fantasice for the characters he looked up to are weak. With no more escapism, the persona no longer wants to read.

In the penultimate line of the poem Lark says ‘Get stewed’, which is said in a light hearted jokey way. Some suggest it refers to getting drunk, which may be his alternative escapism, but some argue it means get lost, referring to the disappointment. On the contrary, the final line represents the persona’s new feelings towards books. He believes they are a worthless “load of crap”. The theme of the poem is that escapism and ignoring reality only makes life less fulfilling, which is illustrated through the theme of a journey.

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