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CHURUCH GOING CRITICAL ANALYSIS

They tell you shadows are the best place to hide, but listen no one looks in to
the sun

Introduction: The grave yard and agnostic poet companion of gloom worshipper of
pessimism Philip Larkin is influenced by Hardy, Yeats, Browning, Frost and Wilbur. In
this ironical poem Larkin has inserted multiple themes like lack of satisfaction,
aimlessness, future of religion, pessimistic thoughts. This melodist poet concludes the
poem with an optimistic note. The imagery used by the poet is suggestive. He uses
colloquial language. The tone of the poem is melancholic and cynical. We find
epigrammatic sentences in his poem. The setting of the poem offers Multi-dimensional
effects and meanings. The title of the poem fully suits it and the poem has dramatic
opening. He has added satire technique to enhance the beauty of this dramatic
monologue.

Apparent Meaning: The apparent meaning of the poem is quite sublime. The poet is
making his way to some un-mentioned place and on the way he glances at the church.
He steps in to it and witnesses the withered flowers of last Sunday ceremony .There is a
notable silence from the font he sees the new roof .He recites few verses from Bible but
he hear echoes in return. Resounding back to him .He leaves the church and put 6
pence coin in to the charity box. He often visits church. Even though there is no
fascination in it to stop. He has a queen feeling of wasting time. He wonders at the
purpose of building churches. He predicts that a time will come when churches will be
turned in to a museum. They will become the hidings and shades for sheep. Pastures
for sheep when grass to grow on them .They will be open to rain. People will cease to
go to the churches buildings will be visited by the dubious women with their sick children
to touch an advised stone for the sake of curing themselves from unknown disease.
Some women might come with the hope of getting cured from cancer .Church will be
visited by the relation to visit the dead ones. A time will fade away grass will envelop the
churches and it will become a deserted building .The poet ponders who will be the last
person to visit the church .It might be visited by the attendants of rare ceremonies like
baptizing, marriage and funeral. He cares least about his worth and is nothing more to
him than farmers stone. He concludes the poem with the positive approach that the
belief in church might not be shaken the people will continue visiting it considering it
their last hope .The spiritual significance of the churches will never die. Even the
decayed buildings will fascinate the people because of the graves of dead ones and the
source of wisdom for the living ones.

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Symbolic: On the outset the poem is highly symbolic and is packed up with the
glittering pearls of symbols. The poet is actually telling us the condition and significance
of churches and on the other hand the dead conscience and emptiness of the modern
man .The poet considered himself a modern man as well an essential aspect of the
social contact of this poem written in 1954,is marked and general decline in religious
attendance at churches after 1945,at the end of world war II. At the beginning of 1950,
less than ten percent of the population were church goers. The poem, CHURCH
GOING, embodies hat may be called secular (Anglicanism) which also insists that belief
must die but which also insist that the spirit of tradition represented by the English
church cannot die. The poet actually predicts a time will come when churches will lose
their importance .The poet sketches out the modern mans inclinations

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,

And always end much at a loss like this,

The church will turn in to an ordinary time passing visiting place like museums and the
people will start deserting this place. The weeds will grow around it and it will left for
animals or the women will visit it for to recover from ailments. The poet ponders that the
superstitious people will continue to come as there will be no faith left but what will
happen if those superstitious also fly away. Who will be the last person to visit the
church? It will become the centre of ceremonies only. Throughout the poem the poet
satirises and ironically mocks at modern man but at the end he states

And that much never can be obsolete,

Since someone will forever be surprising

A hunger in himself to be more serious,

The poet seems to break the agnostic shell by starting no matter what may happen the
church will be the last hope and the last resort for the people .it will be the last resting
place for the dead people and the source of wisdom for the living ones.

Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,

If only that so many dead lie round.

Irony: The whole poem has been wrapped with ironic threads. The poet shoots with
irony on the emptiness of modern mans spirit including his own self. On the other hand
the poets of the view that churches do not proud that satisfaction as they used to. He
mocks at the modern man as he says:

Reflect the place was not worth stopping for

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The turning of church in to museum an ominous sign, death of faith is all the satire upon
modern man who thinks that church has lost its value but the real fact is that it is the
people who enlighten the religious places the faithless people have cast gloom over
churches due to their lack of interest in religion. In short delves in to the alienation of
modern everyday life in which religion and belief are losing their place rapidly. A place
built for the solemn purpose the church is being restricted to ceremonies and occasional
visits by few people. Larkins use of irony is at its best where he speculates as to who
would be the last person to visit the church as the house of God for his spiritual
edification. Larkins half serious half mocking tone declares the scattered spiritual bound
between man and God.

I wonder who

Will be the last, the very last, to seek

Diction: The poet has used an awesome diction. In the second line of first stanza he
has used the word Step instead of enter which is a clever pun on the past of Larkin. It
shows his un-intention and unwilling visit to the church. In the same stanza he writes
Another Church i.e. it is also like other churches which are used for the ceremonies
rather than worshipping and spiritual purgation. Unignorable silence refers to the
dreadful silence it is in fact the silence of religion Roof looks almost new signify the
apparently new look of religion. The use of the word often used for the visit of church
shows the Aimless visit. Thus multi dimensional effects enhance the charm of poem
and significance of its meaning.

Themes: Larkin is the neighbour of death companion of gloom and worshipper of


nihilism. He deals with numerous themes in the poem Church going like modern mans
lack of interest in religion, his dissatisfied nature, future of religion, aimlessness,
indecisiveness of modern man and agnotism of Larkin himself. The theme of lack of
interest of modern man is luridly observed when the poet unwillingly steps in to the
church. The verses that he recites are hollow and they echo in the church.

The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door

This is actually the hollowness of the modern man, who is gradually turning the church
in to a museum to be visited once in a blue moon.

The modern mans dissatisfaction is interwoven with the theme of lack of interest in
religion. Man himself has deserted churches. This is the dissatisfaction of the modern
man that make him think that nothing around is useful. He is actually introverted.

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Another theme emerged in the poem is aimlessness. Modern man seems to have no
aim. As in the poem too the poet is wondering and he sees the church and steps in to it.
As he says:

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,

And always end much at a loss like this,

Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,

Modern man has no aim by this the poet conveys us the futility of modern mans life.

Moreover the modern man suffers from indecisions. He has no decision power. As in the
poem the poet has in the earlier part of the poem given agnostic and secular sort of
statement, but at the end he has no reverence for church as he states:

Hatless, I take off

My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

But at the end of the poem he seems to be under the charm of church stating

Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in

Accept the last stanza ,Larkin proves to be an agnostic person where he is turned to be
laughing at the decayed religion influence .That why he mockingly says that a time
come when church will merely become a museum sort of visiting place.

A few Cathedrals chronically on to show

Church going is a dramatic monologue in which the poet is addressing himself .He
starts the poem without any introductory invocation. He writes,

Once I am sure there's nothing going on

I step inside, letting the door thud shut.

The poet grasps the interest of the readers from the very beginning till its end.

Title: The title church going attains a very interesting meaning. Moreover absorbs the
whole poem in it. The poem actually progress as the poet goes to the church is no more
considered to be sacred.

Language: The poet has used colloquial language in this poem. He writes lucid words
as Cycle-Clips, Unlucky place, reverence and so forth.

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Tone: The tone of the poem is cynical and melancholic. For adding the musicality of the
poem the poet has added AB rhyming scheme.

Once I am sure there's nothing going on

I step inside, letting the door thud shut.

Another church: matting, seats, and stone,

And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut

Subjective / Objective: The poem turns out to be subjectively objective the first person
singular I and first person plural WE or OUR is characteristic device, which shows the
subjectivity of the poem. The words (I step) (I stand) (I sign) prove the subjectivity of the
poem that the poet himself is actually agnostic and the poet becomes objective since he
talks about the modern man and his societys attitude in 1945 toward church and
religion.

The poet concludes the poem with an optimistic note .Where the poet finally says that
church will remain the sign of wisdom and symbol of hope for the people and will
continue visiting the church.

Which, he once heard was proper to grow wise in

To crown the title we may aptly appreciate Larkins brilliant selection of title, his
awesome themes, mingling of satire and irony on the modern man and he aware people
about the real significance of church needs a great applause. The tone, language and
the diction is most appropriate for this poem. Seamus comments:

An exacting world, of his poetry with such trust worthy force that they call for
attention.