Study Guide

Aubade Dissatisfaction

By Philip Larkin

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Sure, "Aubade" has lots to do with death. But there's other stuff going on too. Is it just us, or does it seem like maybe a fear of death isn't this speaker's only problem? It seems like this guy isn't crazy about his job. He seems like he might be a bit of a loner. And we get the sense that he's not sipping the occasional margarita—more like he's flirting with a drinking problem. Beyond his obvious fear of death, there is also a general dissatisfaction with life. Is this guy fun, or what?

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. What kind of job do you imagine this speaker has? Why?
  2. What lines, phrases, or words give you a sense of the speaker's overall dissatisfaction with life? What do you think is the cause of this dissatisfaction? Do you think his perception of death would be different if he felt more satisfaction in his life? Why or why not?
  3. Imagine you have to buy a birthday present for the speaker of this poem. What do you get for this guy? What's the perfect gift for an antisocial, death-obsessed, functional alcoholic?
    [Note: liquor is not an option.]

Chew on This

In "Aubade," the speaker's dissatisfaction with his life leads to his obsession with death. If he had more to live for, he'd spend more time in the moment and less time worrying about the inevitable future. Because the speaker feels unfulfilled by his life, though, death fills the void. On the bright side: at least it's not a void?

The speaker's obsession with death prevents him from finding fulfillment in life. If the speaker could find a way to ignore "the sure extinction that we travel to," he might be able to find some joy and satisfaction in life. (That's a toughy to ignore, though.)

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