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Philip Larkin’s Poem “The Explosion” Literature Analysis

In his poem “The Explosion,” Philip Larkin discusses the dramatic event of the mine disaster observed in 1969. This poem is the elegy to remember the tragedy of the explosion. Thus, the main themes discussed by the author are life and death, and the main idea is the victory of life over death in spite of the experienced tragedy.

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To discuss the theme and accentuate the idea, Philip Larkin uses the informal language and the detached tone and focuses on using foreshadowing, metaphors, and symbols. Furthermore, referring to the particular aspects of the poetry writing, it is important to note that the author presents his own vision of the elegy as the poem formed by several parts which are characterized by the absence of rhyming and different punctuation and style.

The elegy is composed of three important parts, and the whole poem is structured to present eight stanzas with three lines and one concluding line. The first part of the elegy consists of five stanzas which describe the day of the explosion. Larkin uses the informal language, and the author’s tone is typical for presenting facts in the news. However, the detached tone of Larkin is balanced with his use of foreshadowing. Thus, on the usual day of the tragedy, “Shadows pointed towards the pithead” (Larkin 2).

Furthermore, “the slagheap slept” (Larkin 3). Metaphorical shadows and the personified sleeping slagheap are the signs that something dramatic can happen. Nevertheless, miners did not feel the threat, and one miner chased after rabbits to come back “with a nest of lark’s eggs” (Larkin 7). The symbol of the egg as the symbol of life also appears in the final line of the poem.

Thus, the miners coming to the mine are described with the help of such associations as “Fathers, brothers, nicknames, laughter” (Larkin 10). These peaceful miners cannot predict the tragedy. Larkin follows his manner of listing the facts, and the author states that “At noon there came a tremor” (Larkin 12).

However, the author does not demonstrate the pain and suffering caused by the explosion, and he only refers to the metaphorical presentation of the “sun, / Scarfed as in a heat-haze dimmed” (Larkin 13-14). This dimmed sun is the only symbol to accentuate the darkness of the tragedy. All the stanzas in the first part end with the full stop to emphasize the tension of the described sequence of events.

The second part of the elegy is interesting because it can be discussed as the fragment of the prayer for the dead miners’ souls. This fragment changes the author’s tone, and the following stanzas are presented as the flow of consciousness used to represent the wives’ wraiths of miners who are described as “Larger than in life they managed – / Gold as on a coin” (Larkin 21-22).

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The author uses the simile to draw the readers’ attention to the miners’ souls. These lines are associated with the final line, which represents the symbol of the life as the unbroken eggs. The observed miners come with the eggs to demonstrate the victory of life over death and to accentuate that there is life after the dramatic explosion.

In spite of the fact that Philip Larkin uses few devices to emphasize his ideas, the author pays much attention to the structure of the elegy and to changing the thought flow in the poem’s parts. As a result, the elegy is not based on rhyming, the author operates foreshadowing, and the detached tone sounds stronger with references to the use of well-known symbols such as eggs.

Works Cited

Larkin, Philip. The Explosion. 2010. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Philip Larkin’s Poem “The Explosion” Literature Analysis." May 1, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Philip Larkin’s Poem “The Explosion” Literature Analysis." May 1, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Philip Larkin’s Poem “The Explosion” Literature Analysis'. 1 May.

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