The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Toads” is based on an extended analogy and presents a common complaint: In order to afford the enjoyments of life, people spend so much time working that the labor often overshadows and ultimately spoils their enjoyment. Philip Larkin, who compares work to a toad, takes the complaint one step further by confessing that although he is envious of those who have conquered work, he cannot break free from the expectations of the system because “something sufficiently toad-like/ Squats in me, too” (lines 25-26). It is this final, greater toad that prevents Larkin from ever fulfilling the romantic dream of getting “The fame and the girl and the money/ All at one sitting” (lines 30-32). “Toads” is thematically divided into four sections. The first section, stanzas 1 and 2, sets up the problem and introduces a toad as a metaphor for work. The toad “work” squats on life, soiling six days out of seven, a disproportionate percentage, but “wit” or cleverness seems to be a solution to the despair it causes. Stanzas 3 through 5 look at the people who have banished the toad. Such people include “lecturers, lispers, loblolly-men and louts” as well as the outcasts of society. The speaker is amazed that although these people have shunned the “accepted” way, no one is a pauper and “No one actually starves” (line 20).

In the third section, the narrator tries to visualize himself as someone who could make a similar leap...

(The entire section is 490 words.)