Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin was born in 1922 in Coventry, England. Like Thomas Hardy, he focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality or self-pity. Deeply anti-social and a great lover (and published critic) of American jazz, Larkin never married and conducted an uneventful life as a librarian in the provincial city of Hull, where he died in 1985. This short poem touches on a favourite theme of Larkin’s – the distance between what we originally plan and what, in the end, we achieve.

Does Home is so Sad really portray what is found in the typical, post 22nd World War British home? The sadness of it all? The tacky vase, the forgotten music, and the constant waiting – waiting for something to happen. Larkin really helps us to question just how much time we spend waiting for things to happen. The home waits for our return, the music and piano wait to be played. The vase waits for us to dust it. The pictures yearn to be appreciated, and the cutlery used. Do we connect with Larkin’s predicaments, or is it just an ordinary house?

And is Larkin completely negative and devoid of feeling? I don’t think so, for we identify with the need for a home – a place to call out own, and perhaps Larkin is (almost eccentrically) suggesting that material objects have feelings too. Or perhaps, on the surface, Home is so Sad is purely based on the negativity of a person to look after their home, the boring and miserable lives that its inhabitants live, and the conformity to a type (“That vase” possibly being the must-have of the time)l which Larkin so furiously shunned. But surely Larkin becomes a stereotype within his own home?

Philip Larkin’s poem “Home Is So Sad” dramatizes the melancholy of a home empty of its inhabitants. The speaker describes a home that is vacant of its occupants probably because they passed away. The use of the word “home” in the title and the first line of the poem, as opposed to using the word “house,” creates an immediate sense of understanding in the reader. Everyone can relate to the idea of home and having to leave it, especially when thinking about a childhood home. This poem also seems to reflect on the idea of losing someone important.

The home is unwilling to change and still contains the belongings that were left by its inhabitants. The speaker personifies this home to create a metaphor for loneliness, abandonment, and emptiness and thus creates a connection between a house that is vacant and a person who has suffered a loss. The sorrow of this house and its apparent unwillingness to change since its residents passed on are apparent in the first few lines of the poem: “Home is so sad. It stays as it was left, Shaped to the comfort of the last to go As if to win them back. ” (1-3). These lines create a notion of desolation and longing in the poem.

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