The Poetry of Larkin Questions and Answers
by Philip Larkin

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Comment on the use of language in "Church Going" and "Mr. Bleaney".

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In both poems, Larkin creates a rather informal, conversational tone. One language technique he uses to create this effect is enjambment, whereby sentences, or more specifically phrases or clauses within sentences, spill over two lines. For example, in "Church Going," the phrase, "cut / For Sunday" spills over two lines, and in "Mr. Bleaney," the clause, "He stayed / The whole time" likewise spills over two lines.

Heaney also uses personification in both poems. In "Church Going," Larkin writes that "The echoes snigger briefly," and in "Mr. Bleaney" he describes the wind as "frigid." The personification in both instances implies that the setting of the poem is as alive as the speaker, or alternatively that the setting reflects the feelings of the speaker. The idea of the echoes in the church "snigger(ing)" suggests that the speaker feels somewhat like a child, and perhaps rather silly, standing at the pulpit and reciting "large-scale verses." Describing the wind as "frigid," meanwhile, helps to convey the extent of Mr. Bleaney's loneliness, and also the cold, inhospitable atmosphere of his home.

In both poems Larkin also uses triplism to describe the respective settings. In "Church Going," he describes the church as "matting, seats, and stone," and in "Mr. Bleaney," he describes the contents of Mr Bleaney's room as "Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb." In both instances, Larkin uses triplism to reduce the setting to its essential components. In both instances, the triplism also helps to suggest the unappealing emptiness of the setting.

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