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Please comment on the theme of the poem "Wants" by Philip Larkin.

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indrani0806 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted December 22, 2010 at 1:13 AM via web

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Please comment on the theme of the poem "Wants" by Philip Larkin.

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted December 22, 2010 at 6:56 AM (Answer #1)

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In his poem "Wants," Philip Larkin expresses his "wish to be alone."  The poet desires to be freed from the many obligations and expectations that society imposes upon him.  He yearns to be free of social obligations, which are symbolized by the phrase, "the sky grows dark with invitation-cards."  He wishes to be free of "the printed directions of sex," referring to the expectations that society has regarding the sexual behavior of a man or a woman.  He also wishes that he did not have to be "photographed under the flag" together with his family; this seems to refer to the obligations of one's country (the flag) and one's family. 

In the second paragraph, Larkin seems to go even farther: he seems to desire to be free of the "burden" of life itself.  He expresses a "desire for oblivion," or self-destruction. 

Although this thought sounds radical, consider how it resembles the famous words of Hamlet:

 To die, to sleep...
and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'tis a consummation(70)
Devoutly to be wish'd.

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