Summarize "The Building" by Philip Larkin.

Philip Larkin's poem "The Building" describes a hospital. It focuses on the people waiting to be called in for their appointments. They are of all ages, and they seem to be anonymous in this neutral waiting room as they wonder what is wrong with them. The poem ends with a reflection on the inevitability of death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Philip Larkin's poem “The Building” starts out rather vague. The speaker is describing a building, a tall building, higher than a fancy hotel yet certainly not a hotel. It is in a close-packed neighborhood, and taxis are always coming and going.

Inside this building, there are many...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Philip Larkin's poem “The Building” starts out rather vague. The speaker is describing a building, a tall building, higher than a fancy hotel yet certainly not a hotel. It is in a close-packed neighborhood, and taxis are always coming and going.

Inside this building, there are many people sitting and waiting on steel chairs, looking at magazines. There are shops that sell paperbacks and tea. The people have their outdoor coats on, and they are restless. A “kind of nurse” appears every few minutes to call someone. The people who wait are young and old and in between. They are anonymous, caught in a “curiously neutral” zone away from their homes and even their names. They wait to “confess that something has gone wrong.”

We can see now that this place is a hospital. The people are waiting to find out which floor they will be sent to, how bad their problem is, and how much money they will have to spend to correct what has gone wrong. They watch as someone in a hospital gown is wheeled by, and they are quiet, feeling that they have something in common with the person. This building has rooms upon rooms, and the deeper one goes, the harder it is to come back.

The neighborhood outside the building is shabby and rather old. The children are playing. Young women are picking up their dry cleaning. The people waiting wish they could be out there. Some of them will leave by lunch time, others later. Some will stay. They all know that one day they will die, perhaps not right now in this place but somewhere and some time. No one can stop death, not even the visitors who appear each evening with their “wasteful, weak, propitiatory flowers.”

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on