'A study of reading habits' by Philip Larkin

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The theme of journeys is present in Philip Larkin’s poem, A Study of Reading Habits. However, it is not a physical journey that we see, but a metaphorical journey about the speaker’s life progression through his changing escapisms created by books. The title is a mock, serious title for it sounds like a piece of academic research Larkin uses first person persona to give expression to things he would prefer not to have attributed to himself. The structure of the poem divided into three stanzas; school years, adolescent years and the present. The tone is sarcastic and colloquial, that along with the shorter lines, creates a less serious poem from Larkin.

In the first part of his journey, the persona is imaginative and loves to read, so much so that is it ‘ruining [his] eyes’. He imagines a fantasy world where he could be cool and ‘deal out the right hook to his bullies’. The alliteration of ‘dirty dogs’ is symbolism of the persona’s bullies, which portrays them as the villains. It is the stories, which makes him believe he is invincible, like that of the heroes he reads about. The stories provide an escapism to which he can be brave, hero, and not the bullied kid to which he is in reality. There is a smooth, harmonious quality in the beginning stanza due to Euphony. This underscored how easygoing and fantasy-like childhood can be.

The second part of his journey represents his adolescent years. We now see him with ‘inch thick specs’, which is ironic to him previously stating his compassion for reading was ‘ruining [his] eyes’. We see the persona become more gothic and dark, with his new love of Horror Fiction. ‘Cloaks and fangs’ sounds dangerous and eerie, which is his new escapism. Some critics suggest that ‘ripping’ could be vampire vocabulary but it also can refer to being posh. Through his journey through stanza two, we see him move on to more lustrous novels, where his escapism is him being a womanizer. Larkin use borrowed language of ‘clubbed with...