Critical Analysis of “Ambulances” + Summary | Poem by Philip Larkin

Critical Analysis of "Ambulances" + Summary | Poem by Philip Larkin

“Ambulances” is about concept of death. Philip Larkin shows its dread while illustrating realistic imagery of an ambulance. Critical Analysis of “Ambulances” reveals that the poem is not about any specific person nor is it about the illness of an individual but demonstrates universal notion of death. When people think about ambulances, they imagine terrible images. Usually, people imagine death after seeing ambulances. Death is a loss for the near and dear ones of the dead. It is also peaceful as it is the end of sorrows and sufferings. Philip Larkin does not consider death nonviolent; rather he talks about its negative impacts.

Click here to read poem “Ambulances” instead of its critical analysis.

Ambulances as the name suggests is a depressing poem. Ambulances always saddens moods. If death is a loss then ambulance is reflection of death. In fact, it is main theme of this poem.

Critical Analysis of “Ambulances” + Summary | Poem by Philip Larkin

Critical Analysis of First Two Stanzas of “Ambulances”:

Poem starts with clear imagery of ambulance. It is taking a patient to hospital. It seeks attention of everyone. People starts gazing it. Starting lines of poem illustrates vivid imagery of ambulance and people who see it. They become afraid. After seeing critical sickness of a person in the ambulances, they do analysis of his dreadful condition. Every person, especially children and women stop doing their works and divert their attentions towards ambulance. It is not the ambulance which increases their fear but the concept of illness. People don’e think about better health instead they imagine the worst possible condition. They step into the shoes of patient and imagine his pain. Philip Larkin, in first two stanzas of the poem, illustrates realistic imagery of the ambulance. He also describes the condition of people when they see ambulance.  

Critical Analysis of Two Middle Stanzas of “Ambulances”:

Psychological condition of people has been presented by the poet in next stanza. Concept of death shows people that nothing in this world is permanent. It does not matter, whether a person is rich or poor, death is certain for him. It is the worst pain in this world. No pain of the world can be compared to death. Furthermore, it cannot be defeated. It is a sad fate for everyone. It is painful simultaneously dreadful. People show their sympathies while saying the word “Poor soul” for the person, who is being transferred to the hospital but this sympathy actually is the result of selfishness as they are imagining themselves in the ambulance.

Philip Larkin says that ill person might live a good life. His life might be full of happiness. He might have many relatives and family members. He might live a fashionable life but with the arrival of death, his life has no meaning at all. The life, whether it was good or bad, has come to an end. His success has no value. However, loss to his near and dear ones values the most. The poet himself imagines death. Indeed, it is fearful. Philip Larkin has sketched a contrast between life and death. Life does not stop with death of a person. It goes on. It continues. It is also admitted that importance of egos, desires and values ends with death.

Critical Analysis of Last Stanza of “Ambulances”:

Last stanza of the poem is depressing. People give way to ambulances. They pass through the streets; they alarm death. The poet says that patient is going to die. Every single second is taking him close to death. It is certain for him. No one can stop it. Instead of worldly desires, patient’s mind is full of feelings and emotions. He fears but nothing can be done to save him from death. It is powerful. It takes every person with him whom it likes. It decreases distance between ill person and afterlife; the same distance, which is still maintained by the healthy ones.

In a nutshell, the poem “Ambulances” illustrates fear. It is among those finest poems which insist on fear. It also shows horror on the face of children and woman when they see death. Death itself is scary but its concept is frightful. In modern days, we witness death every day. Larkin has not presented any utopian world. He has created routine life imagery through which he demonstrates notion of death. It is more effective in this way. Examples from everyday life are more impressive as compared to instances from stories. Philip Larkin is known as the poet of realism. Undoubtedly, in this poem, imagery is realistic. Horror of death can be imagined. Feelings of death on faces of spectators can be felt. Janice Rossen did critical analysis of the “Ambulances”. He writes:-

“Larkin wrote a group of poems which insist harshly on fear in the face of death,, and which are therefore bleak and sinister. In some of these poems, Larkin’s view of death is chilling and effective because of the very ordinariness and everyday settings he writes about. For instance,, in the poem Ambulances, he emphasizes the omnipresence of death in the line: ‘All streets in time are visited.’ His poem ‘Aubade’ proves that nothing can defeat or mitigate the horror and permanence of death. ”  

Janice Rossen on critical analysis of “Ambulances”