Autobiography at an Air-Station by Philip Larkin
Progress is in the eye of the beholder. Throughout the years society has forced nature out of its life and has instead adopted a new mechanical and industrialized lifestyle. Technology may be deemed as progress by some, where it is thought of as a positive advancement for mankind. Yet technology can also be a hindrance for society, by imposing itself on society and emptying the meaning out of life. In “Autobiography at an Air-Station,” Philip Larkin conveys his distaste of how society has denounced nature. By employing an ironic tone in the sonnet, Larkin comments on the significance of the sonnet in relation to industrial life. Life has become ironic because it is no longer a natural life that society leads, but a fabricated life. Through his use of rhyme and meter, the extended metaphor comparing the air-station to life, imagery, and diction, Larkin reflects on what life has come to be: a deviation from the intrinsic.
The ironic use of rhyme and meter, or the lack thereof, is one of the devices Larkin uses to emphasize his need to break out of industrial society. The typical rhyme scheme is not followed, but instead an ironic rhyme scheme is used in the sonnet in the form of abab cdcd efg efg. Larkin writes this poem as a sonnet but at the same time diverges from what a typical sonnet is supposed to be. He is commenting on society’s inclination to form restrictions on those within it. By writing out of the accepted form of a sonnet, his writing becomes more natural because of a lack of constraints due to following certain rules and fitting a certain form. He breaks free and writes as he pleases and does not conform to society. Just as with the rhyme, the meter Larkin employs becomes satiric. Throughout most of the poem he follows an iambic pentameter. But once again he rebels against the rules and society by breaking the ten-syllable count. Though the overall count of the syllables might be the same as a regular sonnet, he varies the syllable count in individual sentences such as in line one, where he has only nine syllables, and line six, where he has eleven syllables. He shows that he is trying to break back into nature. He does not want to follow form, and be a machine that just regurgitates information, without any real thought. Larkin comments on what being an individual in society is worth, and how that worth is lost, because no one thinks for himself or herself anymore. By only changing the syllable count of individual sentences, and not the whole piece of writing, he is able to show that certain people, like him, are able to break out society’s structure.
Larking uses the extended metaphor by comparing the air-station to life. Thus the travelers in the air-station become travelers of life. In the sonnet he says that “in the race for seats/You’re best alone” (line 7-8). These lines symbolize a person in the early stages of his or her life. ...