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Flashcards in Afternoons by Philip Larkin Deck (12)
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“Summer is fading:

The leaves fall in ones and twos”


—> poem immediately begins with idea of loss/degeneration (fading appears to be unavoidable), best part of year is gone representing how best part of mother’s lives (and fathers as they grind jobs) gone, monosyllabic words slow pace and suggest tediousness of daily routine, also reflects loss of life (even though it is summer which makes it worse as it should be a time of happiness)


“From trees bordering

The new recreation ground.”


—> “bordering” suggests order/confinement and contrasts to “setting free” in last line, trees could also represent mothers putting aside lives to look after the child, new post-war recreation should be place of freedom yet following lines reflect how it only restricts


“In the hollows of afternoons

Young mothers assemble”


—> metaphor suggests emptiness of lives of young mothers (particularly during afternoons when according to Larkin they experienced a low points), could also emphasise emptiness of being middle aged (afternoon middle), young mothers have lost individuality, sense of regimentation from “assemble”, seems negative as it has become a tedious habit (maybe even element of compulsion), referred to as young as most important part of their lives right now is children


“At swing and sandpit

Setting free their children.”


—> children are free even though adults are not, alliterative s’s and rhythmic balance emphasise idea of regimentation, sibilant alliteration shows movement/happiness of children and contrasts to the simply “assembled” parents


“Behind them, at intervals,
Stand husbands in skilled trades,
An estateful of washing,”


—> impersonal/ominous that it is “behind” rather than ‘beside’, reflects that respective lives have become more and more distant OR that husbands support them, “intervals” hint at fact they were not always present, stereotypical relationship, “estate” reflects working class and lack of glamour, “washing” reflects motherhood was fulltime job and housewives


“And the albums, lettered
Our Wedding, lying
Near the television:”


—> symbol of love between couples is now carelessly left out in open - suggests increasingly distant relationship as couples move to adulthood, impression is wistful as albums symbol for lost+romantic past, double entendre as lying also means deceiving (album deceived couple), TV has replaced intimacy


“Before them, the wind

Is ruining their courting-places.”


—> steady, erosive power of wind often used as metaphor for effects of time - destruction wreaked by wind suggests once-passionate loves now have dutiful and lacklustre relationship, wind represents change/time and reflects mother’s change due to child which is ruining memories when she went on dates in same parks - however next line reveals they are still used by students for dates, enjambment represents how quick change was, before them mimics behind them at opposite ends of stanza reflecting how mom’s trapped


“That are still courting-places

(But the lovers are all in school),


—> metaphor suggests vestiges of romance still exist (but only for young), parenthesis emphasises quickness of change, in Larkin’s view true romance is only for the young as lost as you age,

perhaps suggests love is immature, also reflects cyclical nature of it as it cycles through generations, parenthesis also reflects how child lovers are trapped in school but also far away from adulthood


“And their children, so intent on

Finding more unripe acorns,


—> children show intensity and sense of purpose that their mother’s now lack, imagery of “unripe acorns” represents potential to grow into something fuller and mature - children learning possibilities of life which mothers discarded when children born/that mothers were not aware of, continuous enjambment may reflect relentless routines of parents, expectation of children reflect expectation of society (poem written 1959)


Their beauty has thickened.
Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.”


—> lack of beauty after childbirth (viewed as misogynistic and cruel by many), also thickened by becoming hardened to life, seems to be complaining about selfless nature of adulthood (responsibility assumed by parents over children) - they have become sideline characters in deciding their own futures


Form and structure:


3 Octaves/ free verse to show the lack of traditional formal elements
The division between an equal-sized stanza with lines of almost equal length and the inconsistent rhythm provokes the questions between freedom and limitation

No meter (strange choice for larkin) is used to highlight the contrast between the seemingly free children and the routine-bound mothers


good old context


written 1959, Larkin never married, poem about sadness of loss of youth making way for tedious adult routine, pessimistic and cynical, perhaps misogynistic (viewed child-raising negatively even though for many mothers probably fulfilling)