Philip Larkin

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How does Larkin develop the theme of alienation and isolation in his poem "Mr. Bleaney"?

In his poem "Mr. Bleaney," Larkin develops the theme of alienation and isolation by describing a sparse, dreary, desolate setting.

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The speaker of the poem rents a room and is told about the previous occupant of the room. The previous occupant, the eponymous Mr. Bleaney, is portrayed as a lonely and isolated man in large part through the description of the room he lived in for so long. The room is sparsely furnished. It has curtains that are "thin and frayed," and the rest of the furnishings are listed thus: "Bed, upright chair, sixty watt bulb, no hook." The abrupt tone implied by this list implies the impersonal nature of the room. There is also "no room for books or bags."

The sparse furnishings in combination with the small size of the room suggests that this was not much of a home for Mr. Bleaney. It seems more like a place somebody might stay in for a night or two before moving on to somewhere else. We are, however, told that he stayed in this room for the "whole time he was at the Bodies," which implies that he lived in this room for a long time. The room is also obviously very small, which implies that Mr. Bleaney lived here alone.

In the penultimate stanza of the poem, the speaker imagines that Mr. Bleaney spent his time standing at the window of this room, watching "the frigid wind / Tousling the clouds" or laying on the bed, "telling himself that this was home." These are sad, lonely images that emphasize the impression that Mr. Bleaney was an alienated, isolated man. The fact that he may have lain on his bed "telling himself that this was home" suggests that he really knew that it wasn't, and this implies that he was acutely aware of his own isolation.

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