“” In Philip Larkin’s poem, “Church Going,” Mr. Larkin depicts the confusion of an individual, the persona, who is compelled to enter the churches he sees on his bicycle rides. His problem is, that every time he comes away feeling as if he has wasted his time. Larkin uses the persona to describe his feelings toward religion. The persona is split between two ideas of religion.
The holy, “ceremonious,” view the church takes, versus the belief in the pure spirituality. The persona although drawn to the church seems to be mocking it once inside. His descriptions of the hymnals as “little books,” and the altar as “the holy end,” demean the sanctity of the church. Ironically, he doesn’t think twice about removing his “cycle clips” in place of his hat to show his “reverence. ” This acts show that for some reason the persona has some respect for at least a part of the church.
Larkin uses irony in this situation possibly to depict how the persona’s manner at Church has been drilled into his head, most likeliy as a child. The reason he is conflicted is because he grew- up under certain ideals, and although his views may have changed, he can’t break his old habits. The act that epitomizes his confusion is when he drops the “Irish sixpence” in the collection box. He continues his old habit, while he also mocks the church by contributing what is essentially nothing but a circular piece of metal.
Drawing on conclusions reached from one of Larkins other poems, “Aubade,” one can see that Larkin perceives religion as a “vast moth eaten brocade,” or in simplier terms, a covering with no inside, much like a twinkie with no creamy filling. He thinks of religion as a phony created to protect man from realizing their true fate. Knowing the prior knowledge one can comprehend that the persona, like Larkin believes that the “phoniness” will eventually be understood by all the people and the parishoners will slowly disapear until the idea of Sunday mass is a memory of long ago. However the persona feels that there is something special about the church something greater than the decorations,something on the spiritual level.