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by Philip Larkin

Aubade Theme of Death

No big surprise here—death is easily the most obvious theme in "Aubade." The speaker can't shake that gloomy feeling that with each passing minute, hour, and day he is hurtling closer and closer to his own demise. It's the kind of realization that tends to put a damper on things. So, it makes sense that "Aubade" doesn't have a single rainbow or butterfly to brighten things up. In fact, even the Sun is absent. Dreary indeed.

Questions About Death

  1. What connections can you make between the poem's title and its central theme? Why do you suppose Larkin chose to title a poem about death, "Aubade?"
  2. Larkin broke "Aubade" into five, ten-line stanzas. Which stanza feels the darkest to you and why? Which stanza captures the speaker's dread of death the best? Why do you think so? Are there any stanzas that offer a glimmer of comfort for the speaker (and the reader) or is it just death, death, death?
  3. In "Aubade," darkness is often used to represent death. What happens when Larkin talks about light, though? Does that feeling of pending doom disappear? Do we get warm fuzzy feelings? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

For Larkin, death is present in everything. He could find death and darkness in Hanson's "MMMBop". In "Aubade," death is lurking everywhere (even in the sunrise), making life nearly intolerable. It's an ever present, inescapable force influencing every aspect of life.

Larkin's "Aubade" isn't as gloomy and death-obsessed as it appears. The fact that day does break, regardless of how gloomy, is life-affirming. Mini high five?

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