In Philip Larkin’s “Poetry of Departures” two distinct diction styles are used to highlight the differences between the speaker’s real life and the ideal; showing the audience that the speaker is dissatisfied with his current situation, and is wistful for what could be. Through the juxtaposition of Larkin’s formal and informal diction, Larkin establishes themes of an inner restlessness and a desire for change.
Through the use of formal diction, the lifestyle of the man who “just cleared off” (Larkin 4) is made to seem more rich and exciting, a “life reprehensibly perfect” (Larkin 31-32) that the speaker covets. Whether or not this man’s life is as glamorous as the speaker makes it out to be doesn’t matter—the speaker desires an “audacious, purifying, elemental move” (Larkin 7-8) of his own. Anything that will help him escape the perfunctory life he describes through his use of middle diction.
After the first stanza of “Poetry of Departures” the diction style takes an abrupt turn as the speaker transitions from a high and formal diction style to that of middle and informal diction. The “good books, the good bed” (Larkin 14) are not described with the same illustrative fervor as the elements of the other man’s lifestyle, because they are what the speaker knows and has grown used to. There is not the same wistful mystery in “the specially- chosen junk” (Larkin 13) as there appears to be in the “nut strewn roads” (Larkin 25) the other man traverses. The speaker is plagued with a restless, “the grass is greener on the other side” mentality—a mindset that is underscored by the informal diction the speaker uses to describe his own less-worthy life.
I thought that writing a second timed essay using the same prompt would be like trying to make lemonade out of used up rinds and pith. I was partially correct. While it was challenging to find new and fresh things to say, I ended up making lemonade. About a tablespoon of it.
I tried some new strategies in writing this essay that both helped and hindered me. I took my first draft and hid it so that I would not be tempted to simply rework the original. I am very proud of myself for this, reworking would have been the easier path to take but I wanted to challenge myself and stay true to the assignment. Huzzah. The second strategy I used was taking twenty minutes of my allotted time to take notes and create a rough outline of my thoughts.
In theory this is supposed to help an essay have a more organized start, and follow a more coherent progression of ideas. I am convinced that this is a useful tactic to employ on a fresh prompt, however when I tried it on this old draft, I found myself wasting time trying to plan new things to say. In the end it ate up those twenty minutes and I had a very bare bones outline that did not help me beyond writing the topic sentences for each paragraph. I also did not finish the essay in time, I was only able to complete three paragraphs. I haven’t yet decided if this is a practice I will continue, especially if it yields such disappointing results. Perhaps it will serve me better on a fresh prompt.
While it was an exercise that I was really not that jazzed about, I was surprised at how many new things I did have to say, and I am confident that my first and second paragraphs are stronger than the originals. Fore future practice, I still need to work on my planning phases and a better way to divide my time between the tasks I need to accomplish.