“” 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
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
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