"Larkin rarely presents women in a positive light." In the light of this statement, show the ways in which Larkin portrays women in his poems.
Many poems in Philip Larkin's 'The Whitsun Weddings' are connected through one common factor: Larkin's seemingly contradictory attitude towards women. Although in many of his poems, it can be claimed that Larkin presents women rarely in a positive light, dismissing them as insignificant as a whole, there's also room to imply that Larkin is suggestive of women's attractiveness and their power, particularly over the male gender.
In 'Afternoons', Larkin directly disregards women in many ways, starting with the suggestion that they are mediocre in contrast to men - their husbands work in "skilled trades" whereas Larkin suggests that a women's sole function is to produce and bring up their children. In the first stanza, Larkin uses imagery to present a dreary picture of the daily routine of women, portraying it as an immediately gloomy opening of summer "fading" followed by further imagery of leaves falling and the "hollows of afternoons", suggesting the blank and empty lives that women lead.
In the respect that these are "young" women, it can be suggested that Larkin feels some sympathy towards their predicament of gradually becoming replaced by a new generation as they "set free" their children. The poem ends with the rather vague line: "something is pushing them / to the side of their own lives." This gives the sense to the reader that women are continually being taken for granted and that they have no control over the course of their lives; this may be seen as Larkin implying that women have no control due to their inferiority to men as men have the power than women don't. In conjunction with this, we can say that...