What is the tone of "Days" by Philip Larkin? Optimistic or pessimistic?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "Days" by Philip Larkin is as characteristically pessimistic as most of Larkin's poetry, It begins with a rhetorical question, asking about the purpose of days, and suggests that:

"They are to be happy in."

Although this might seem cheerful on the surface, the optimism is ironic. The narrator nowhere claims that he is actually happy, and seems to be searching for an alternative to living in days. The only other option that can be envisaged though is death, symbolized by the doctor (who tries to save lives) and priest (who administers extreme unction). The poem, in fact, hints that the narrator is contemplating suicide to answer the question:

 "Where can we live but days?"

Thus the tone is ironic and pessimistic.