Study Guide

Toads Dissatisfaction

By Philip Larkin

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Why should I let the toad work
      Squat on my life? (1-2)

The poem's first two lines certainly don't paint a picture of a man who is satisfied with his life. There is clearly something about his work that is preventing him doing or feeling what he wants to. It is squatting on his life. Shmoop doesn't get a happy, satisfied feeling from this description. Do you? Maybe if it were a kitten perched instead of a toad squatting we'd feel differently but, as it is, this feels pretty bleak.

Six days of the week it soils
      With its sickening poison— (5-6)

Dissatisfied much? Not sure? Here's a good test: if you're using words and phrases like "soils" and "sickening poison" to describe how you feel about six out of seven days of the week, you need to make a change. Chances are something isn't quite right.

Ah, were I courageous enough
      To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that's the stuff
      That dreams are made on: (21-24)

There's a super-strong sense of if only in this stanza. The speaker is basically saying, "If only I had the guts to stand up to societal expectations and tell my boss to go jump in a lake, everything would be better." The phrase if only is a pretty good indicator of regret, and regret's good buddy dissatisfaction. They seem to go everywhere together. If you make the mistake of inviting one to a party, you know the other will show up with a stale bag of Fritos and a sad story and put a damper on the whole affair.

And will never allow me to blarney
      My way to getting
The fame and the girl and the money
      All at one sitting. (29-32)

Finally, here in the eighth stanza, we get to see what is leading to this sense of dissatisfaction our speaker is grappling with. He feels like things are missing from his life—he feels unfulfilled. He can't seem to get all the pieces of a happy fulfilling life all at the same time. Something is always missing. And what's to blame? Yup, those external and internal toads (societal expectations about work and his internal sense of duty and obligation) are what keep him from getting what he wants. Bummer.

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