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Compare the ways in which Duffy and Larkin use language to create a sense of isolation

Beth Kemp | Monday June 06, 2011


Guide Navigation

  • A Sense of Isolation
  • Theme of Anger
  • Exploration of Relationships
  • Sense of Childhood
  • Ideas of Violence

Associated Resources

  • Compare the ways in which Duffy and Larkin use language to create a sense of isolation.doc
  • Teacher version with comments - Larkin and Duffy - Isolation.doc
  • Using exemplar essays to improve students’ work

Both Duffy and Larkin use language in their poetry to express how it feels to be isolated, or to be on the outside of society.  The poems I have chosen here present this theme in different ways, providing examples of different ways in which the poets work.  Larkin often offers us the persona of an outsider, but is not generally commenting on that separation.  In Mr Bleaney, however, he uses the character of Mr Bleaney to consider a man who appears to be outside of society’s mainstream.  Larkin’s Faith Healing, however, shows us more explicitly how some people react to being isolated and emotionally separate from others.  These poems also differ in Larkin’s attitude towards the isolated people he describes: Mr Bleaney appears to be treated sympathetically, while the women seeking the faith healer’s gift seem to be viewed with contempt.  Duffy’s poems Beachcomber and Disgrace also both present people who are separated from others.  In the case of Beachcomber, the “you? figure in the poem is isolated because of her inability to reach back through time to the girl she was, while in Disgrace, the distance experienced by the persona and their partner is presented as almost organic, having built up over a period of time.

An important distinction between the poets here then is their relationship to the characters they are presenting as isolated.  In both cases, Larkin is removed from the people he is portraying and this is typical of his poems about the human condition, as he often appears to be keeping himself out of his poems and musing about the lives of others, offering a kind of...

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