The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers 5

The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers

The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers

1. Discuss Larkin’s poetic style in the light of “The Whitsun Weddings”.

Or, Give the critical appreciation of the poem .

Or, Discuss the personal element despite the poem’s objective quality. observational

The poem entitled “The Whitsun Weddings” is an piece by Philip Larkin when he was traveling from Hull (in those days he was working as the liberation of the University of Hull) to London by train (on Whitsun Saturday). The poem has seven stanzas and it is typical of Larkin. The words are simple, the emotions are blunted and the verse is packed with cynicism. The word ‘Whitsun Sunday’ refers to the seventh Sunday after Christmas. This seventh Sunday is regarded as a holy day by the Christians. Whitsun Saturday, on which this train journey was undertaken by Philip Larkin. The Whitsun public holiday was once all important,-children wore new clothes to celebrate, many children were baptized at Whit and it was a popular time for young couples to marry. Here, we may remember Larkin’s religious fervour.

The poem begins with Larkin telling us that the train, which he boarded, was three-quarters empty when it started from Hull. Larkin has used the first stanza to tell us what that particular verse is going to be all about, in the subsequent lines Larkin then tells us his tale.. In stanza one, we can really feel the vibes, Larkin had a late start and the lunchtime train from Hull to London felt clammy because of the heat even though there was plenty of fresh air coming in through the windows. As Larkin sat down on the hot train seat he began to feel a sense of relaxation. At last he could sit quietly and make his observations. The brilliant sunlight was almost blinding and the heat had further heightened the smell emanating from the already very smelly fish dock. So we can sense that the start of the journey is not scenic and the air is not aromatic but Larkin appears semi-content about his forthcoming journey. In the second stanza he emphasizes how hot it is-“All afternoon through the tall heat that sleep for miles inland”. At this point in his journey southwards he is noticing the hedge rows, the fields, the farmland filled with cattle but the beauty is somewhat spoiled because the cloth train seat is permeated with all kinds of unpleasant smells that override. At the end of the 2nd stanza Larkin talks of passing a new town, a place that has nothing to offer but a large area of scarp cars. Larkin may have had some long lasting relationships but he never married, in fact Larkin may have been averse to the institution and all of its encumbrances. In stanza three they are approaching the next station it is obvious that Larkin is taken aback by the hullabaloo that is coming from the station platform. Larkin describes the sun as destructive but this is sheerly because the bright sunlight is blinding and it is spoiling what could otherwise be an interesting turn of events. As the train pulls away from the platform he is able to see that the platform is filled with laughing women. Larkin lets cynicism creep into play and he sees fit to describe the young females in an almost unknown way. Larkin states that their mode of dress is a joke, at that point we could begin to wonder if Larkin is slightly jealous.

The description in the poem is graphic, as is always the case with the imagery in Larkin’s poems. It was a sunlit Saturday. The poet saw the backs of houses on the way, a street of binding windscreens, the river’s broad and level waters, wide farms, the cattle casting short shadows on the ground, canal with “floating of industrial forth”, and “across of dismantled cans”. There were the fathers with their “seamy foreheads”, the mothers “loud and fat”, an uncle “shouting smut”, the women wearing nylon gloves and imitation jewellery, and so on. The references to the newly married couples are also quite interesting.

The touches of irony and satire in the poem are also unmistakable. The canals with floating of industrial froth; “the whoops and skirls” on the platforms, the girls grinning and pomaded, and in parodies of fashion, the fathers with broad belts under their suits, the mother loud and fat, and an uncle shouting smut-those are all ironical or satirical phrases.

“The Whitsun Wedding” is a poem of social and cultural attitudes. And not just a poem of direct and realistic description. The speaker in the poem defines his role in contemporary society in terms of “reading”, and his position as an “intellectual” largely determines his presentation of events. The poem highlights differences in taste and value, as we see in the speaker’s comic but rather prim response to “girls in parodies of fashion”. In this poem we find a recognition of weddings as moments of painful loss and separation as well as celebration. Marriage is here described not only as a joyful occasion but as “a happy funeral” and “a religious wounding”. Larkin told one of his interviews that he had intended to give an unqualified assent to the hopefulness at the end of the poem; and yet the suggestion of cupid’s arrow and the more positive, fertile associations of rain cannot altogether eliminate the uneasiness and uncertainty associated with the poem’s final “sense of falling”.

Larkin’s poem adheres to this ideal of unity and coherence while endowing it with a secular rather than Christian significance. Again, the poem leaves itself open to a charge of snobbery and classconsciousness. It is the particularity and relativity of vision which is emphasized in the poem: “each face seemed to define just what it saw”. The speaker’s perception proves to be limited and even faulty; he reveals how on a second and more curious inspection he “saw it all again in different terms”-but even then the poem scrupulously avoids making any final judgement on what the day’s events might signify.


2. What modernist and symbolist methods of writing poem can we find in the poem “The Whitsun Wedding”?

Or, Discuss Larkin’s poetry as the poetry of pessimism and death.

Or, Write a note on Larkin’s treatment of the theme of alienation and isolation.

Or, In what way does Larkin’s poetry represent the Movement’s poetic sense?

The term ‘Movement’ refers to the work of a group of poets of the 1950s; this group did have a shared set of values and assumptions closely related to the moods and conditions of postwar England. The characteristic features of the work of this group of poets might roughly be described as dissenting and non-conformist, cool, scientific, and analytical. This new type of poetry represented a reaction against the excesses of the romanticism of the 1940s; and Larkin’s “Whitsun Wedding” is no exception of that. The use of wit and irony

is a prominent feature, and this often produces a poetry which seems defensive and guarded. The prevailing tone of the poetry “The Whitsun Wedding” of the Movement is urbane and academic. The movement poets were not actually rebellious but were, in many ways, meekly submissive and often tending to compromise and conservatism. In spite of The Whitsun Wedding’s mood of dissent and its anti-establishment attitude, the Movement offered only a token rebellion and did not try to change the prevailing social structure. Larkin’s poetry “The Whitsun Wedding”, in contrast with the work of the other Movement poets, exemplifies a deeper imaginative understanding of social experience and its contradictions, and it shows, at the same time, a far greater range of formal and stylistic devices and a more profound sense of the linguistic and aesthetic possibilities of modern colloquial English.

Philip Larkin does not agree with the modernist view, as stated by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, that the poet should address a small and intelligent audience rather a larger and less intelligent audience. The modernist view seems to be that an ideal audience for a poet is one which is compound of literary critics and poets. Larkin has just the opposite view. He believes that poetry is at bottom bound up with the giving of pleasure to its readers and that, if a poet loses his “pleasuresseeking audience”, he has lost the only audience worth having. Not only are the themes of Larkin’s poetry anti-modernist but the persons in his poems are also of the familiar, everyday kind. In “The Whitsun Weddings”, the sights witnessed by Larkin from train going to London are of the most familiar kind. This further serves to show that Larkin is able to create poetry out of the common and unexceptional people, scenes, happenings and occurrences. There is no violence in Larkin’s poetry; he does not write sensational poems, and violence would therefore have been irrelevant as the theme from his point of views.A critic rightly and justly points out that a constant strain of alienation insinuates its way into poem by Larkin. Throughout the volume entitled “The Whitsun Wedding”, the poet feels himself cut off from his fellow human beings, often struggling to achieve a spirit of community with them, and sometimes simply wondering at the reason for the alienation.

“The Whitsun Wedding” offers a sweeping, panoramic view of the contemporary landscape and uses the journey as a way of structuring is multiple and disparity in perceptions. The landscapes in this poem range over town and country, over places of work and leisure; and the novelty of the poem’s presentation lies in its patterning of seemingly random observations and occurrence; – the insertion of “a cooking tower”, for instance, between an ode on cinema and a cricket field. His England is a place of long-established agricultural and industrial labour “Wide farms went by short-shadowed cattle, and/canals with floatings of industrial froth”. It is a place that reveals the distinctive signs of postwar reconstruction, as we see in the speaker’s disapproving response to “the next town, now and nondescript.” The poem shows extensive use of the urban pastoral perspective to impose a sense of unity and continuity upon geographical and historical divisions.

“The Whitsun Weddings” is not a love poem at all though it does contain a reference to weddings as the title shows. It combines a discursive spread with the emotional intensity of a lyric. It strews the path to its extraordinary climax with deliberately ordinary sights and sounds such as the hot-carriage-colt, industrial froth, and dismantled cars. The poem leaves itself open to a change of snobbery and classconsciousness. The touches of irony are also remarkable. The canals with floatings of industrial froth; “the whoops and skirls” on the platforms, the girls grinning and pomaded, and in parodies of fashion, the fathers with broad belts under their suits, the motherland and fat, and an uncle shouting smut-these are all ironical or satirical phrases. The symbolist devices disrupt the normal relationships between concepts by liberating Larkin from the familiar and narrow world. As he moves from symbol to symbol, grappling with his horror of sexual disappointment, he finds only a confirmation of losses, and a proof that fulfillment is unachievable. There is no straight forward, rational, logical progressions of images here. Marriage is here described not only as a joyful occasion but as “happy funeral” and “a religious wounding”. Like Thomas Hardy, Larkin felt that such maturing was most necessary for one’s spiritual development. The poem “The Whitsun Weddings” thus arouses in us mixed feelings such as good cheer, joy, dismay, disappointment, surprise and curiosity.


1. From where the poem has been taken?

The Whitsun Weddings’ is the title poem in Philip Larkin’s 1964 volume of poems.

2. What the poem about?

The poem, describing a journey from Hull to London on the Whitsun weekend and the wedding parties that Larkin sees climbing aboard the train at each station, is one of Larkin’s longest great poems and one of his most popular.

3. Is this poem of inspiration?

Although ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ describes a train journey from Hull to London during the Whitsun weekend, the inspiration for the poem was a train journey Philip Larkin undertook on the August Bank Holiday weekend between Hull and Loughborough, the midlands town where his mother lived, in 1956.

4. How does Larkin lyricize his journey?

Larkin fictionalizes this actual journey, and relocates the terminus for his journey to London rather than Loughborough, so that he and we end up in the nation’s capital.

5. When did he began and finish the poem?

Larkin began the poem in 1956, but it wasn’t until October 1958 that he would finally complete it.

6. What is the summary of the poem?

In summary, Larkin outlines his departure from Hull and his subsequent train journey on a sunny Saturday on the Whitsun weekend.

7. What is the content of the first two stanzas?

The first two stanzas describe the early stages of this journey, with Larkin itemizing the details glimpsed from his train window. It’s not

until the third stanza that Larkin realizes that, when the train stops at each station, newlywed couples are boarding the train, with friends and relations cheering the newly married brides and grooms.

8. What was context of the time of these events?

These were the days when many newlyweds would, after their wedding, get the train down to London, so they could then begin their honeymoons. Larkin admits that he had actually mistaken the sounds of merriment from the wedding guests for whoops and other noises from the station porters, and it is only gradually that he comes to realise the pattern of wedding parties at each railway station.

9. What is the content of the prevalent stanzas?

. The itemizing then continues in the ensuing stanzas, but this time it is the members of these wedding parties that draw Larkin’s observant attention: the fathers with their ‘broad belts’, the ‘loud and fat’ mothers, the rather uncouth uncle who is ‘shouting smut’.

10. Is this a high poetry?

This may be high poetry, but it’s not far removed from a Peter Kay stand-up comedy routine about the types of people we all recognize from weddings. The poem concludes with the train arriving at its destination in London.

11. Is ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ a celebration of marriage?

The poem seems ambivalent. An analysis of the terms Larkin uses in reference to marriage reveals some scepticism on Larkin’s part: the guests wave goodbye to the departing train as if bidding farewell to ‘something that survived’ the wedding service itself.

12. What is the wedding referred to?

The wedding is referred to as ‘a happy funeral’, as if weddings and . funerals share more than simply their status as religious ceremonies: the wedding, too, is a farewell ceremony. Bidding farewell to what? To single life, to the youthful phase of their lives, perhaps even to the bride’s virginity.

13. What is marriage after all according to the poet?

After all, the marriage, or perhaps more specifically the consummation of the marriage on the wedding night, is ‘a religious wounding’. But the poem is a little cagier than this.

14. Is this a poem of good-bye?

It might also be significant that the poem focuses on saying goodbye, on leaving things behind: Larkin is leaving Hull behind at the start of the poem; the newlyweds are leaving behind their loved ones and climbing aboard the train, taking their first steps on their new life together; their families are waving them off from the platform.

15. What is the wedding ceremony itself considered?

The wedding ceremony itself is over, and these newlyweds’ lives will soon reassert their ordinariness, and this special day will be over. And then we have that final image of the whole poem, which sees Larkin likening the brakes of the train as it pulls into its London terminus to an ‘arrow-shower’ that is already ‘somewhere becoming rain’.


16. State the words with which the poem begins and ends.

The poem begins with reference to ‘sunlit Saturday’; it ends, right on its last word, with ‘rain’. ‘Sun’ is present, by chance, in the poem’s very title, ‘The Whitsun Weddings’.

17. What were Larkin’s views on marriage?

Larkin’s own views on marriage he himself never married, and was sceptical of the institution to say the least it’s tempting to see the rain in terms of loss and tragedy, as if Larkin is already aware of the truth that those wedding guests, and the couples themselves, are striving to keep at bay, namely that the rest of their married life will not live up to the promise of this day.


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The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers The Whitsun Weddings Summary and Questions and Answers

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