Mr. Bleaney by Philip Larkin : A Critical Study

“Mr. Bleaney” is a poignant commentary on the inescapable monotony of modern life. Mr. Bleaney’s life of loneliness is seen from the perspective of the narrator who might face a similar fate in his future. The life of Mr. Bleaney serves as a warning to the speaker who understands that the drabness of such an existence can wipe away all traces of his individuality.

The narrative like style of the poem highlights the commonality of Mr. Bleaney and emphasiseshow such lives are forgotten in the mundaneness of everyday life. The sparse and frayed appearance of the room used by Mr. Bleaney is suggestive of his character as well.

There are millions like him, lost in the quagmire of life and the poet seems to be making a commentary on the tedious monotony of human life.

Bleaney’s idiosyncrasies (“preference for sauce to gravy”; “plugging at the four aways”) are all drowned in the drabness of his life. The narrator is confused as to how to place an individual like Mr. Bleaney. If he lived such an unremarkable life, should he deserve anything more? He is unable to make up his mind and says:


That how we live measures our own nature,
And at his age having no more to show

Than one hired box should make him pretty sure
He warranted no better, I don’t know.


The “I don’t know” resonates with the narrator’s self-doubt and agony. He realises that he cannot be an arbitrary judge of Mr. Bleaney’s existence as he might be leading the same drab and uninformed life that he had been so callously dismissive of. The speaker is nonplussed by this stark realisationand this bewilderment is reflected in his telling phrase, “I don’t know”.

Bleaney thus becomes a striking symbol of the vulnerability of the precarious modern existence.

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