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A Study of Reading Habits Analysis

When beginning to analyze initial observations of A Study of Reading Habits by Philip Larkin, the most notable trend was the shift in imagery and language as the poem progressed. Larkins language and imagery allow the reader to feel the emotions he experienced while reading. As the poem progresses, the language and imagery shift, allowing the reading to understand the dynamic relationship between the narrator and reading. In the opening stanza, the images are childish and the language is simple. The opening two lines evokes an image of a child laying on his or her stomach in bed, so engrossed in reading that their face is between the pages. The next four lines further indicate that the narrator is a child, as a child is likely to be more concerned with keeping cool than their eyesight. It also becomes clear that the stories the narrator was comforted by the stories s/he was reading because they assured him that even little guys like him can still triumph over the physically larger, less intelligent (because they are dogs) and morally reprehensible (dirty) enemies. The language and imagery in the second stanza is much different than that of the first. He has progressed to reading stories about evil for his mischievous entertainment. The narrator proceeds to indicate he has a coat and fangs, the features of a wild beast. The phrase ripping times means that the narrator had good times, but the verb ripping also has violent and destructive implications. The next line is perhaps the climax of the poem. The phrases clubbed with sex and broke them up like meringues reveal the violent and sexual nature of his fantasies. The final stanza has a much different tone from the previous two. The author does not include I in his statement Dont read much now, which gives the sense that he is not willing to give any more energy to books. Also, this phrase can be taken as a command to the reader. The narrator goes on to explain that he doesnt read because he no longer sees himself as the hero who saves the girl, but rather as a forgettable extra condemned to normality. The final sentence indicates the narrators ultimate opinion on the matter: Reading cures nothing. If youre looking for an escape from your problems, alcohol is your best bet.

At first the title of this poem presents itself to be a boring manuscript of how to have perfect reading habits, and then the author turns it around to be a humorous poem about the different stages in a man's adolescence. The first stanza: When getting my nose in a book Cured most things short of school, It was worth ruining my eyes To know I could still keep cool, And deal out the old right hook To dirty dogs twice my size In the opening stanza, the images are childish and the language is simple. The opening two lines evokes an image of a child laying on his or her stomach in bed, so engrossed in reading that their face is between the pages. The next four lines further indicate that the narrator is a child, as a child is likely to be more concerned with keeping cool than their eyesight. It also becomes clear that the stories the narra tor was comforted by the stories s/he was reading because they assured him that even little guys like him can still triumph over the physically larger, less intelligent (because they are dogs) and morally reprehensible (dirty) enemies. In the second stanza: Later, with inch-thick specs, Evil was just my lark: Me and my cloak and fangs Had ripping times in the dark The woman I clubbed with sex! I broke then up like meringues. From this stanza it shows the middle aged man. The reading stages a teenage through early days of a man goes from another comic book-more mature of course, to books about women and sex I am guessing. The man is now learning to please a mate and by doing this it may include learning how to cook (meringues).

In the third stanza: Don't read much now: the dude Who lets the girl down before The hero arrives, the chap Who's yellow and keeps the store, Seem far too similar. Get stewed: Books are a load of crap. This stanza is the elder years of a man. The midlife crisis stage. This stage is when the man forgets about stories and reading and is hopeless in his life. Instead he turns to alcohol- "Get Stewed." The midlife crisis man thinks books are a load of crap. Some may assume this is how most men end up, some do some don't. This poem was interesting, I liked the unusual way the poem was opposite of the title. The theme of the poem is that escapism and ignoring reality only makes life less fulfilling

Summary:
The speaker would use reading to get away from different things such as school and bullies. He didn't care if reading ruined his eyes because in books he could imagine anything and escape reality. He could imagine being cool and fighting the bullies "twice [his] size" (line 6). Later on, during adolescence, the speaker liked reading darker books. His eyes were so bad from reading he had to get spectacles. He enjoyed the evilness of "cloak...fangs"(l 9) and humiliating women. Now, in the present, the speaker doesn't read anymore because the stories are too closely related to his issues. He can no longer escape his problems regarding his lousy life. So, the speaker condemns books altogether and believes they are worthless.

The poem is about the speaker's life progression. Each stanza represents a different stage in life. The first stanza represents his childhood; reading to escape, dealing with bullies, and being cool. The second stanza represents the persona's adolescence; the persona is more curious about dark, evil fiction. He admires the symbolism of a vampire and has a stronger sexual drive. In the final stanza the speaker comes to terms with

reality; he can no longer hide behind books. The first line pertains to the persona's love "of getting [his] nose in a book". On the contrary, the final line represents the persona's new feelings towards books. He believes they are a worthless "load of crap" (l 18). In this poem metaphor is evident. This device is only evident, however, in line 16. The line "the chap who's yellow and keeps the store, seem far too familiar" (l 15-17) functions as imagery that characterizes the character is the persona's stories as the color yellow. The color yellow evokes the sense of weakness and represents cowardly characteristics. This metaphor produces the effect of a cowardly character, who evidently relates to the persona. The poetic device of allusion is evident in the poem. Allusion in created in the second stanza. The persona creates the allusion to vampires when describing his interest in dark fictional books. The words "cloak ...fangs ...[and] sex" all function as characteristics usually related to vampires. The persona's taste in fictional text matures, along with his hormonal interests. Symbolism is evident in the poem. The poetic device is most apparent in the final stanza. The persona describes the books he dislikes during adulthood. Lines 13 to 17 talk about characters in books that are cowards or fall short. In line 17, the persona is uncomfortable with these books because the characters "seem far too familiar". The characters in these books function as symbols of the persona and his lousy life. The poetic device simile is present in the poem. Simile is obvious in line 12, where the persona talks about how he "[breaks women] up like meringues". He compares women to meringues, a light, airy, sweet desert. The poetic device connotation is present in the poem. Connotation is evident in line 16, where the word "yellow" is used to describe the character from the books the persona reads. The negative connotation of the word yellow functions as a sense of weakness and cowardice.

Structure: There are 3 stanzas of six lines each (sestets), with three
uneven stresses per line. The rhyme scheme is ABCBAC. Each stanza marks a different period in the speakers life up to the present.

Time and Voice: The poem is written in the first person. It has a
friendly, conversational feel, and a humorous tone . It can be read simply as an autobiographical description of Larkins early experience of books.

Language and Imagery: Notice the colloquial language, which


Larkin employs (getting my nose in a book) right from the start of this poem. This casts a comic light on the poems serious-sounding title. The first 3 lines of the sestet show us the physical reality of the speaker as a child, which is that he is weak-sighted, and ruining his eyes by reading. The second 3 lines tell us about the fantasy life he is living through books. He is a hero who can keep cool while throwing punches at villains who are bigger than him. The slang expressions the old right hook and dirty dogs, tell us about the adventure fiction he is reading . 8