What is the theme of "This Be The Verse" by Philip Larkin?

The theme of "This Be The Verse" by Philip Larkin is the unintentional damage that parents cannot help inflicting on their children.

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The theme of Philip Larkin's "This Be the Verse" is best summed up by the first line of the poem's final stanza:

Man hands on misery to man.

More specifically, the theme is the way in which people are damaged by their parents and pass this damage on to their children. Larkin is not concerned here with evil people who want to inflict harm on their children. They might at least be dismissed as an aberration. His point is that parents warp the characters of their children and make them unhappy without meaning to do so. This unintentional abuse comes from their own childhoods, and they cannot help passing it on, with interest, to the next generation.

This is a situation which, the poet gloomily asserts, will never improve. The only way to break the cycle of abuse is to

get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Larkin took his own advice, never marrying or having children, and everything he wrote in his poems and letters suggests that he had little belief in the possibility of happiness, either in families or outside them. His own father, perhaps significantly, was a harsh personality and a great admirer of Adolf Hitler. The result of Larkin's prescription, if everyone were to take it, would, of course, be the end of the human race, which the poet seems to believe would be no bad thing.
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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