Critically evaluate the poem Wants

Critically evaluate the poem “Wants” written by Philip Larkin

Critically evaluate the poem Wants: Philip Larkin, British modern poet, novelist and critic is regarded as the best poet in coast first world second period. He worked as university librarian in Hull. He was very famous because of his poetic work Collected Poems’ in 1988. He has declared;

Critically evaluate the poem Wants

 “I write poem, to preserve

things…both for myself and

others, though I feel that my

prime responsibility is to keep

from oblivion for its own sake.”

The poem ‘Wants’ by is a very popular modern poetry in which the poet is examining himself and desire ‘to be let alone’, which is sometimes a feature of human personality. The poem also reflects endless wishes of human beings which presents the hectic life of modern man and explains that the aloofness and peaceful loneliness is basic of all his Want.

Title of the poem

The title is always an important part of literary creation because it shows theme of poem. Here the title ‘wants’ short, simple and static but is an apt and thematic. As a verb, it shows feelings of an individual. On the other hand, as a noun it shows abundant desires of human being. Throughout the poem, poet just deals with plentiful desires of human beings.

Theme of the poem

The poem reveals human psychology and human nature. 20th century has raised a moral and spiritual question towards man’s faith and existence as a human being. Wars, modern philosophy, scientific approaches, and moral devaluation have made man ‘mad’ behind trivial tranquility of human life. The plentiful wants made him frustrated. So Poet wants aloofness.  Wish to be alone is the theme of poem and the following lines from the poem can bear out.

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone. Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.

Critical Summary of the poem

The great changed occurred in modern life during the First World War. Its consequence influenced many modern poets. The life suddenly swung from the traditional airing of sentimental philosophy to the drab. Larkin is the spokesman of the world. In first stanzas, the poet is expressing his ideas and thoughts about 20th century and men’s psychology. Here poet’s thought is about universal conception. He says,

‘Beyond all this, the wish to be alone’.

However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards

In these lines poet does believe that after all kinds of human Wants, his Wants for loneliness is the main want. Further he shows day to day and routine style of living monotonous life through ‘invitation-cards’. Though sky (nature) has remained an interest and fascination for us, man wants to remain aloof.  Then the poet says about routine and inharitaged style of sex of modern man.  The poet says,

 However we follow the printed directions of sex

However the family is photographed under the flagstaff-

Sex should not be monotonous because Sex is the part of our routine life. As Sigmund Freud says ‘Sex is the supreme desire of men.’ But poet tries to leave from such a boring life. That is why the poet wants to be alone. The unity of family is only seen in photographs of some certain occasions but in reality, it is almost impossible. Thus once the poet wishes to be alone. In the second stanza, poet changes his tone and declares that men’s running after everything is due to only for the sake of mental peace and relief. He describes

Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,

The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,

Man is running after money and following the time, the poet depicts about time bound personality of men. He worries not for his life but for his death. Here it is a satirical note about ‘life insurance’ and he asks what the use of it is. In this stanza, poet convinces us about physical and world happiness. At the end poet comes to his main thought that today where man is doing only due to his desire of oblivion run and he expresses, “Beneath it all, desire of oblivion run.”

Thus Man’s wish for money, protection, happiness luxurious facilities and each everything are like branches of his want. His main want to be alone and to be alone.

Poetic Quality

As far as poetic quality is concerned, the poem is very simple, straight forward and charming poem. There is only Ten lines in poem and each line is dealing with a new example of human wishes.

The poem is into two stanzas and both of the stanzas consist of five lines.    There is no any perfect rhombic-word and no any rhyme-scheme is applied. All the lines are run on lines. We find musicality through alliteration.

However the family is photographed under the flagstaff.

Despite the artful tensions of the calendar.

In both stanza the first line is refrained to add charm to the musically and to insist on basic ideal of the poem. The first line is refrained at line number five. e.g. ‘Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.’ The six line is refrained at line number ten. ‘Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs’

The poet has also used the words ‘Beyond’ and ‘Beneath’ metaphorically. The word ‘However’ is also used many time and it shows the firmness’ of the poet.


To summing  up, the poem ‘wants’ is a masterpiece in the field of 20th century poetry by Philip Larkin which reveals the endless desires of human being as well as modernism, monotones and routine life. All these monotony leads man for the aloneness. The plentiful wants have made man machinelike. Men become tire of all these things and finally he wants aloneness. W. H. Auden rightly remarks about aloneness,    Aloneness is  man’s real condition’.

We can compare this poem with ‘Ode to Solitude’ by Alexander Pope. The lines from ‘Ode to Solitude” give only idea that Man can be identified only when he or she is alone.

Solitude where are the charms,

That says have see in the face. ode on solitude by Alexander Pop

 Read it also: I Hear America Singing Walt Whitman

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