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Compare the ways in which Plath and Larkin use language to convey ideas of violence

Beth Kemp | Tuesday May 17, 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 Plath and Larkin use language to convey ideas of violence.doc
  • Teacher version with comments - Plath and Larkin - Violence.doc
  • Using exemplar essays to improve students’ work

Violence is an aspect which is clearly present in some of Plath and Larkin’s poetry, but each conveys this theme in different ways and forms.  Larkin tends to express his ideas about society by means of a persona different to himself, which he does in the two poems selected here, using violent imagery and connotations to explore ideas about sex and relations between the sexes.  Plath, on the other hand, deals with violence at a more personal level, exploring issues of identity and self through violent imagery and language.  As in most of her work, she relates herself to the contexts she describes and writes very hyperbolically, subjecting everything around her to her imagination.

The poems selected for this essay effectively demonstrate the poets’ views and the poetic techniques they have opted for to convey these views.  Larkin’s A Study of Reading Habits could be seen as a man’s disillusionment and anxieties about life which he explores through books.  He seems to choose these books to escape, but ultimately they just disappoint him by making his own inadequacies obvious.  In his Sunny Prestatyn, he depicts women crudely, revealing a negative attitude to women, and a disappointment in their lack of perfection, whereas Plath in Cut relates an injury she suffered herself, to her thumb, including very direct and gory description, and finally in Elm she explores her state of mind through violent imagery.

The themes of the different poems are used to explore violence in various manners.  Larkin tends to concern himself with exploring wider society and social norms in his poetry.  In A Study...

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