Critical Analysis of “Mr. Bleaney” | Poem by Philip Larkin

Critical Analysis of “Mr. Bleaney” | Poem by Philip Larkin

Modern life is full of worries. Company can be found anywhere yet heart remains isolated. Loneliness is a major problem especially in developed countries. In “Mr. Bleaney”, Philip Larkin after doing critical analysis of a person’s life concludes that modern life is entirely tasteless, emotionless, boring and dull. Some critics such as Andrew Motion believes that the poem is highly autobiographical, whereas Janic Rossen is of the view that it is a comparison between poet’s life and Mr. Bleaney’s.

Introduction of Poem “Mr.Bleaney” and its Critical Analysis:

Art is fading day by day. Humans are living life of machines. As a result, stupidity is at its peak. Critics have also done critical analysis of “Mr.Bleaney” and find out that the poem deals with all modern individualistic problems. It is about troubles of an individual. Dull life story of a person has been portrayed. Due to lack of interest in art, his life was far away from creativity. However, it is wrong to say that his life was totally miserable. In this poem, Philip Larkin makes difference between living a life and passing days of life.

Thematic Critical Analysis of “Mr.Bleaney”:

Modern problems are entirely different from ancients ones. In those days, isolation was not a problem. Mostly poet used to portray relation between gods and men. With the change in time, poets started demonstrating relation between man and society. Modern life has psychological problems. Social problem or political problem is no more an issue. Hence, themes of this poem are about all individualistic problems. Besides, some other themes has also been presented, which are:

  • Art
  • Loneliness (quality)
  • Isolation (quantity)
  • Dullness
  • Lack of creativity
  • Life’s complications
  • Ambition-less life
  • Hopeless life
  • Meaninglessness

Click here to read poem “Mr.Bleaney” instead of its critical analysis.

Stanza-I & II Critical Analysis of “Mr.Bleaney”:

In start of the poem, speaker talks about previous tenant of his room. He was living in “The Bodies” (boarding-room) and subsequently was removed. The poet describes room’s condition. Curtains of the room show the lifestyle of previous tenant. Speaker says that they are worn-out, however, they are flowered. He describes them in detail. They are shorter than the required length. From window, buildings, grass and rubbish can be seen. Speaker has been informed by the landlady that name of the previous tenant was Mr. Bleaney, who used to look at the garden from the window. The poet has described room with additional imagery. Some objects such as: a bulb, a bed, a chair and a door without hook have also been illustrated in the poem.

From start of the poem, we see that poet’s style is colloquial. He has used clear images. In critics’ opinions, this poem is a dramatic monologue. Before character analysis of Mr.Bleaney, his critical lifestyle has been mentioned. Speaker (poet) describes detail of each and every character. Philip Larkin knows that a man’s nature and character can be judged by his mode of living and his habits. In starting stanzas, he has not revealed Mr. Bleaney’s habits yet curtains, bulb, door and bed show that he was an irresponsible person. He had no interest in decorating his room and keeping it clean. Perhaps, he was a poor fellow yet he should have cared about cleanliness and his living style. Nevertheless, the poet has cleared that Mr. Bleaney was not interested in properly managing his room.

Stanza-III & IV Critical Analysis of “Mr.Bleaney”:

Speaker talks further and says that there is no space for books in the room. Now, he is also lying on the same bed, on which once Mr. Belaney laid. Speaker does not think this room a perfect place to live. He finds a lot of inadequacies in it yet he decided to live. He is smoking and putting ashes in saucer instead of ashtray, which belonged to landlady; it was gifted to her. Noisy image of a radio set is also there in these stanzas. It was purchased by the landlady on the request of Mr. Bleaney. In order to save himself from the troublesome noise of radio, the speaker puts cotton-wools in his ears. Until now, he has guessed the habits and schedule of Mr. Bleaney. He preferred sauce to gravy, the speaker said.

These lines are somewhat ironical. Speaker does not like the room yet he decides to live therein. He criticizes every habit of Mr. Bleaney yet he follows him. He also puts ashes in the saucer instead of ashtray as Mr. Bleaney used to. He has also noticed an important thing viz. “no room for books or bags”. It seems that Mr. Bleaney was literally a tasteless person. He was not interested in reading books. Was radio enough for him to spend his time? He might be spending a busy life.

There are small similarities in Mr. Bleaney’s character and the speaker but sharp contrast between the two. Some habits of both of them resemble with each other. Mr. Bleaney was not interested in books but in radio. On the other hand, speaker reads books. So far as the similarities are concerned, both do smoking; both use saucer as ashtray. In these stanzas, Mr. Bleaney’s character and speaker’s character are compared.

Stanza V, VI & VII Critical Analysis of “Mr.Bleaney”:

The poet demonstrates further lifestyle of Mr. Bleaney. He loved to spend his holidays with his relatives at Frinton, whereas he used to enjoy Christmas with his sister at Stoke. His lucky number was four. The speaker is unsure about the fact that whether Mr. Bleaney ever considered this room as his house or not. Philip Larkin mentions the very important fact “That how we live measures our own nature”. Furthermore, whether Mr. Bleaney ever thought that he was living an ambition-less life.

These Stanzas have much significance. In fact, they summarize the whole poem. In a nutshell, Philip Larkin has presented modern life. Mr. Bleaney was living a useless life. Modern life is also useless. A lot of people have no ambitions in their lives. How many people nowadays can answer if they are asked “What is your ambition?”. Besides, Mr. Bleaney was not interested in books. He had no ambition. He often spent his time with his sister and relatives. Mostly, he did it in order to drive out his loneliness. Suffice is to say that he spend his whole life in isolation.

He was a narrow minded person. His living style reveals his character. Every line of the poem is realistic and refers meaninglessness in life. Modern life is tasteless, dull and ambitionless. People are compelled to spend life of machines. Work, earn, eat, drink and sleep. It is the only purpose of life, which in the eyes of Philip Larkin, is not good enough. There is an artist in everyone which should be provoked. Art should be preferred. If one can do nothing he should take interest in books. Moreover, why do we feel loneliness in presence of people? Mr. Bleaney has never thought that this room is his home. He never thought that it his world.

Another important theme of this poem which has been pointed out by the critics is “Meaningless life”. We work hard; spend our most of time in earning bread for our near and dear ones but ultimately it would have no purpose. One day, death will end everything. Perhaps Mr. Bleaney thought the same hence he lived a hopeless and meaningless life.

Conclusion of Critical Analysis of “Mr.Bleaney”

In this poem, the poet creates sketch of a person named Mr. Bleaney. He has painted this character very realistically. Imagery of the poem is as clear as day. It has also been said that Mr. Bleaney is no other than Philip Larkin because there are a lot of autobiographical elements in the poem. Nonetheless, the poem is the finest example of “character analyzing technique”. It consists quatrains with regular rhyme scheme. It is a successful dramatic monologue.

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Critical Analysis of "Mr. Bleaney" | Poem by Philip Larkin
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Critical Analysis of "Mr. Bleaney" | Poem by Philip Larkin
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In "Mr. Bleaney", Philip Larkin after doing critical analysis of a person's life concludes that modern life is tasteless, emotionless, boring and dull.
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