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Mr Bleaney by Philip Larkin

Structure of poem
 7 quatrains
 very regular rhyme scheme : abab throughout poem
 this rigid pattern emphasizes the monotony of the life described in poem and impossibility to escape it even
after death – ‘they moved him’ suggests his lack of choice or apathy
 no fragmentation at all in the poem, enjambment used throughout  shows how life unfolds and flows past
man until, in a very negative ending line, he asserts his ignorance and doubt : ‘I don’t know’
 3 movements
1. the landlady makes the persona visit Mr Bleaney’s room
2. the persona takes the room and gets to know Mr Bleaney’s habits
3. the persona wonders about Mr Bleaney’s thoughts
Message of poem / Main themes
 atmosphere created is one of monotony, sadness, hopelessness and poverty, almost absence of life, because of
the words used and list of items chosen to describe Mr Bleaney’s life
 Mr Bleaney is dead ‘they moved him’
 He did not own anything : ‘hired box’ is the metaphor for his room, also makes us think of a coffin
 His room itself is empty and old and uncomfortable showing his material poverty and intellectual emptiness :
frayed / bed / upright chair / sixty-watt bulb / no room for books or bags / fusty bed
 The new tenant takes is place, and involuntarily starts acting like him: ‘stub my fags on the same saucer-
souvenir’ even though he tries ‘to drown the jabbering set he egged her on to buy’, metaphorically the
landlady’s endless talks about her former lodger
 Or even starts thinking like him (last two stanzas)
 May convey the idea that old age is the same for everyone, that even if man tries to forget and become deaf to
the noise / life around (stanza 4), man cannot escape this daily, ‘yearly’ routine
 Irony pervades the whole poem :
o Name of place the Bodies : people reduced to ‘bodies’, not very attractive name either
o in stanza 2 : the bit of garden is ‘a building land’ and ‘took it properly in hand results in ‘tussoky,
littered’ : either he wasn’t a good gardener at all or his departure left the landlady without a gardener,
we’ll never know
o last two stanzas, now that the persona has started acting like the previous lodger, he sits on his bed and
starts thinking about what the other one could think, ending the poem by an ‘I don’t know’ which
proves to be, by its very position, a desperate ‘I do know’
 pessimistic undertones as to life and the passing of time, its uselessness, emptiness and lack of pleasure (frigid)

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