The Interactionist labelling theory/Y damcaniaeth labelu Rhyngweithiol (En/Cy)

English version/fersiwn Saesneg:

The labelling theory belongs to the Interactionists. They believe that nobody is naturally deviant (an idea that conflicts with the New Right), but become deviant when labelled as such, and whatever label this may be has a profound influence on the individual’s actions. Interactionists focus on the individual’s response to their label(s); this is what distinguishes them from other social theorists, such as the Functionalists, who tend to focus their attention on what leads the individual to deviance in the first place.

Lemert developed the labelling theory. The argued that deviance could be split into two separate groups – primary and secondary. The former is referenced to deviance which does not gain the attention of the public, and therefore does not receive a label. The latter, on the other hand, means actions which does receive a label from society, similarly, Howard Becker puts forth the notion that the term deviance does not actually exist, “Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label”, and, “an act only becomes deviant when people define it as such”. He therefore implies that an action has to be labelled as deviant for it to actually become one, because the term itself is socially constructed.

As it is socially constructed, the environment surrounding the situation, including where, when and for which reasons it has occurred, decide if the action is deviant. Often times, the proses of stigmatisation will occur if something is considered deviant, and the action itself will be thereby associated with a bad label. Sometimes the label works like the ‘master status’, which takes over every other label. Examples of this include thieves, prostitutes and homosexuals (this is considered deviant in many cultures).  All the negative connotations of that label are usually thrusted onto the individual. The Interactionist Jock Young supports Becker’s work through his research into Hippy culture. Smoking weed was not considered to be a priority for these groups, until the negative attention from the public and the police.

According to Cooley and his “looking glass self” theory, people tend to see themselves how other people perceive and react to them. The label works as a self-fulfilling prophecy to control people; often, they will start to act to live up to the label, and thus starting a ‘deviant career’, meaning that certain individuals will start to revolve their lives around deviance and/or crime. The activity, therefore, will turn into a social role.

The Sociologist Stan Cohen pointed out in his ‘moral panic’ thesis on the subject of the labelling theory, that subcultures are the most exposed to this process. To start, Cohen suggested that the public would take notice of an activity taking place. An example would be, according to his study, the Mods and Rockers of 1960’s England. As a result of this, agencies of formal and informal control would react to it. The media often amplifies deviance and exaggerates a particular event to make the story more newsworthy, and thus selling more newspapers and generating more profit, although this has negative effects on society. Members of society would start to be wary of specific symbols and icons, and view them as troublemakers. Then, they would overstate the situation by expecting more trouble, and thereby redefining the issue by creating moral panic as a reaction to deviance. Additionally, this may necessitate police officers to target specific groups, meaning that the labelling theory would rotate once again.

To reiterate, the labelling theory plays a significant role within society if we take into account its effect on individuals. Labels may have a positive and negative effect on individuals, and is completely dependent on the situation, or even if the action is labelled by society in the first place.

Welsh version/fersiwn Cymraeg:

Mae’r theori labelu yn perthyn i’r Rhyngweithwyr. Credon nhw fod neb yn wyrdroëdig yn naturiol, ond yn wydredig o dan label, a’r label sy’n ddylanwad mawr ar ymddygiad unigolyn (mae hyn yn gwrthddweud credoau’r Dde Newydd). Mae’r Rhyngweithwyr yn ffocysu ar ymateb yr unigolyn i’r label, ac i’r gwrthwyneb, lle mae’r Swyddogaethwyr yn ffocysu ar beth sy’n arwain at yr unigolyn i fod yn wydredig yn y lle cyntaf.

Datblygwyd y syniad o label gan Lemert. Mae gwyredd yn rhannu i ddau grŵp gwahanol, sef gwyredd cynradd ac eilradd. Mae gwyredd cynradd yn cyfeirio at wyredd nad sy’n derbyn sylw’r cyhoedd ac felly nid oes ganddo label. Mae gwyredd eilradd, ar y llaw arall, yn golygu gweithred sy’n derbyn label gan y gymdeithas. Yn debyg, soniodd Howard Becker nad yw’r term gwyredd yn bodoli, “Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label”, ac, “an act only becomes deviant when people define it as such”. Awgrymir felly, rhaid i weithred cael ei enwi’n gwyredd er mwyn iddo fod yn wyredd, gan fod y term ei hun yn enghraifft o luniad cymdeithasol.

Gan ei fod yn lluniad cymdeithasol, mae’r amgylchiadau o gwmpas y sefyllfa, megis ble, pryd, ac am ba resymau, yn penderfynu os yw gweithred yn gwyredig. Yn aml bydd y proses o stigmateiddio yn digwydd os caiff rhywbeth ei labelu’n gwyredig, a chysylltwyd y weithred â label gwael. Weithiau bydd y label yn gweithio fel “Statws Meistr” ac yn cymryd dros bob label arall, megis lleidr, person hoyw, person ag iselder a llofruddwr. Cysylltwyd yr holl dermau negyddol sy’n perthyn i’r label i’r unigolyn. Mae’r Rhyngweithwyr Jock Young yn atgyfnerthu gwaith Becker trwy eu astudiaeth o ‘Hippies’ pwy oedd yn ysmygu cyffuriau. Nid oedd y gweithgaredd hyn yn arwyddocâd iddynt nes i’r cyfryngau a’r heddlu targedu nhw.

Yn ôl Cooley, yn ei ddamcaniaeth “through the looking-glass self”, mae pobl yn gweld eu hunain yn y ffordd mae pobl eraill yn ymateb iddynt. Mae’r label yn gweithio fel proffwydoliaeth hunan gyflawni i reoli’r unigolyn – byddent yn ddechrau ymddwyn fel y label, fel arfer, a dechrau gyrfa gwyredig, sy’n golygu bydd pobl yn ddechrau byw eu bywydau yn uniongyrchol i droseddu. Bydd y gweithgaredd, felly, yn troi i mewn i rôl gymdeithasol.

Sonnir Stanley Cohen yn ei damcaniaeth o banig moesol ynglŷn â’r theori label, yn bennaf ymysg isddiwylliannau. I ddechrau, bu’r cyhoedd yn cymryd sylw o’r gweithgaredd, ac esiampl o hyn yw’r Mods a Rockers y chwedegau. Fel canlyniad o hyn, bydder asiantaethau yn ymateb i’r gweithgaredd, megis y cyfryngau. Bydd y cyhoedd yn aml yn helaethu gwyredd i werthu papurau, sydd yn creu ganlyniadau gwael ar y gymdeithas. Bydd y gymdeithas yn gweld symbolau penodol fel eiconau o achoswyr trwbl. Yna, byddent yn gorliwio’r sefyllfa ac yn rhagweld mwy o drwbl, a chrëwyd panig moesol fel ymateb i’r gwyredd, sy’n ailddiffinio’r broblem. Hefyd, efallai bydd hyn yn achosi i’r heddlu i orymateb a thargedu grwpiau penodol o bobl, a bydd y theori label yn cylchdroi eto.

I grynhoi, mae’r theori labelu yn chwarae rôl hanfodol o fewn y gymdeithas, gan ystyried ei ddylanwad ar yr unigolyn. Gall y label effeithio person yn negyddol ac mewn ffordd cadarnhaol, sy’n hollol ddibynnol ar y sefyllfa, neu hyd yn oed os yw’r gweithred yn cael ei labelu gan y gymdeithas yn y lle cyntaf.

René Descartes and Methodological Scepticism (a very brief guide).

René Descartes was a 17th-century French philosopher and is widely considered to be the father of modern philosophy. He was also a Rationalist. This means that he was more inclined to depend on reason and logic as the best guide for belief and action.

Methodological Scepticism:

He dedicated a lot of his life to establish the fundamental knowledge about the universe: differentiating the truth from what isn’t. To do this, he disregarded anything he knew to be true until he could prove otherwise. He failed miserably at doing so.

It is impossible for us to know anything, and be able to prove it, because what we think we know is composed entirely of varying levels of belief. Essentially, we cannot prove that anything exists because we rely on our senses to tell us things. Our senses are unreliable because it distorts the truth. For instance, objects may appear different underwater, but in reality, we know it to be different.

Descartes did, however, manage to prove that without a shadow of a doubt that he existed.

This is where his famous “Cogito ergo sum” (“I think therefore I am”) argument comes in. What he means by this is that if for him to be asking questions about nature’s existence, then there must exist something to be asked about.

He simplified this explanation of the “ontological argument” by using axioms of geometry. For instance, it would be impossible to argue that a square does not have four sides because doing so would defy logic. Descartes argued that the definition of the square necessitates the existence of the square. In the same way, Descartes then went on to prove the existence of supernatural beings (i.e. God), because, using the same argument, the definition of god necessitates the existence of god.

Cartesian Dualism:

This means that there are two main foundations to existence: the mental and the body. His philosophy states that the mental cannot exist outside of the body, and the body cannot think.


Also interesting by Descartes:

(Method of doubts – people are often confused about the ‘big’ questions in life, for instance, “what’s the meaning of life?”, because they do not break the questions down to understandable amounts and go through each individual matter at a time. Thus, a philosopher’s job would, in theory, would be to sort through these “like separating good and bad apples”, which would ultimately lead to solving the question.)

René Descartes wrote a lot during his lifetime. Here are some that are recommended:

  • The Description of the Human Body
  • Dioptrique
  • Discourse on the Method
  • Meditations and other Metaphysical Writings
  • Passions of the Soul
  • Principles of Philosophy

Surveillance (English/Cymraeg)


English translation:

The word “surveillance” is derived from French, meaning to observe something or someone to find and block crime. “Sur” means “from above” and “veiller” means “to watch”. Surveillance is a form of social control.

David Lyon defines it as “any collection of data and processing of personal data, whether identifiable or no, for the purpose of influencing or managing those whose data has been garnered”.

Examples include:

  • CCTV;
  • Tagging;
  • Tracking and
  • Storing of DNA.

In modern Britain, there are about forty thousand CCTV cameras, and in the last four years, the British Council spent roughly £515 million on them. This amount of money would be enough to employ an extra 4121 police officers.

The sociologist Gary Marx used this idea of a “surveillance state” to convey the idea that “the all-encompassing use of computer surveillance technology in modern society is for total social control”. It is possible to associate this idea with the Left Realists as they believe that surveillance is beneficial for society because it “hardens targets” – it makes it harder for people to commit crime.

Yet, despite the thousands of CCTV cameras that Britain has, crime rates aren’t comparably lower than countries who have less surveillance. Germany, for example.

The British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) used this idea of surveillance to make a building called “the Panopticon”, which he used as a prison. The design of the “perfect prison” was structured in such a way that cells would be open to a central tower. Individuals in the cells would not be able to interact with each other and they are permanently facing a central panoptic tower. They cannot see whether or whether not there is a person in the tower and therefore must believe that they can be watched at any moment. Bentham noted that this is a model for how society should work in general.

The French postmodernist philosopher Michel Foulcault (1926-1984) also agreed that this is how society should work in order to maintain social order. He argued that the Panopticon was “a diagram of the mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form”, thus it was a positive objective because it shows that society has significantly moved forward from barbaric acts of so-called justice, such as the death penalty. Other postmodernists, like Stanley Cohen (1942-2013), supported this claim by stating that social control and detention used to be public and overt, but in modern society, it is considered to be more discrete and subtle.

Also, the Panopticon helped Foulcault explore the power-knowledge concept and the relationship between agencies of social control (like the police, for instance) and the public.  Because of this, surveillance is extremely useful, and to some extents, it helps to avoid the functionalist term of “anomie” (meaning: complete lack of social control/utter chaos).

However, many Marxists would disagree with Foulcault because they believe that surveillance is a weapon that is used by the Bourgeoisie (ruling class) to exploit and use the Proletariat (the working class).

Cyfieithiad Cymraeg:

Mae gwyliadwriaeth yn air Ffrangeg sy’n golygu gwylio rhywun neu rywbeth er mwyn darganfod a rhwystro trosedd. Mae “sur” yn golygu “o uwchben” ac mae “veiller” yn golygu “i wylio”, ac yn ffordd o sicrhau rheolaeth gymdeithasol. Mae David Lyon yn ei ddiffinio fel, “any collection of data and processing of personal data, whether identifiable or not, for the purpose of influencing or managing those whose data has been garnered”. Mae esiamplau’n cynnwys CCTV, tagio, tracio, a chadw cofnod o DNA. Bodola tua 40 mil o gamerâu monitro cymdeithasol (CCTV) ym Mhrydain, a gwariodd y Cyngor Prydeinig  tua £515 miliwn arnynt yn y pedwar blynedd ddiwethaf. Byddai math hyn o arian cyflogi 4121 heddwas.

Soniodd Gary Marx am y syniad o “cymdeithas gwyliadwriaeth”, sef, “defnydd holl-gynhwysfawr o wyliadwriaeth dechnolegol yn y gymdeithas gyfoes am reolaeth gymdeithasol gyflawn”. Mae modd cysylltu’r cysyniad gyda Realwyr y Dde oherwydd eu bod yn credu mai gwyliadwriaeth yn fuddiol i’r gymdeithas oherwydd mae’n enghraifft o galedu targedau. Mae’n caledu targedau, megis trwy “Neighbourhood Watch”, yn gwneud i drosedd fod yn fwy anodd i gyflawni.

Ond er hyn, er gwaethaf y miloedd o gamerâu monitro ym Mhrydain, nid yw cyfradd trosedd Prydain yn gymharol is na gwledydd sydd â llai o wyliadwriaeth, megis yr Almaen.

Defnyddiodd Jeremy Bentham y syniad o wyliadwriaeth i greu adeilad o’r enw “y Panoptican”. Defnyddiodd yr adeilad hwn fel carchar ac roedd yn caniatáu i warchodwyr i wylio carcharon heb iddynt allu gwybod os ydynt o dan sylw neu ddim. Roedd dim ond angen un gwarchodwr. Felly mae rhaid i’r carcharon wastad ymddwyn fel y petai eu bod yn cael eu gwylio i osgoi sancsiynau posib.

Mynegodd yr athronyddwyd ôl-fodern Michel Foulcalt yn defnyddio’r Panopticon fel trosiad i’r gymdeithas ehangach, ac mae’n “diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form”, felly mae rhywbeth cadarnhaol yw hyn oherwydd mae’n ddangos bod y gymdeithas wedi symud ymlaen o weithredoedd barbaraidd o sancsiynu, megis yn lle’r gosb eithaf. Mae’r ôl-fodernwyr Stanley Cohen yn atgyfnerthu at y syniad hwn trwy ddweud bod rheolaeth gymdeithasol a chosbi yn arfer bod yn ddull cyhoeddus ac amlwg, ond bellach mae’n fwy arwahanol a chynnil trwy wyliadwriaeth, megis CCTV a thagio.

Hefyd, mae’r Panopticon yn helpu Foulcault i ddeall ac ystyried y cysylltiad rhwng asiantaethau rheolaeth gymdeithasol a’r cyhoedd a’r cysyniad pŵer-gwybodaeth. Oherwydd hyn, mae gwyliadwriaeth yn ddull pwerus iawn, ac i ryw raddau, mae’n osgoi’r term swyddogaethol o “anomi”.

Byddai Marcswyr yn anghytuno gyda Foulcault oherwydd maent yn dweud bod gwyliadwriaeth yn arf sy’n cael eu defnyddio gan y Bourgeoisie yn erbyn y Proletariat.

Disorder in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 1) with links to Middleton’s Revenger’s Tragedy

Hamlet is believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601 and is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s most prestigious plays. The play itself remains loyal to the genre of Jacobean revenge tragedy, and thus, revenge ultimately exposes themes of disorder and corruption, particularly through issues of secrecy and deceit.

The sense of urgency and panic is immediately conveyed in the first lines of Hamlet through its setting. It’s cold and dark outside, which underlines the vulnerability of the guards because this possibly leaves them disadvantaged in an attack. This idea is reinforced when Barnardo, the guard, opens with, “Who’s there?” the jumpiness of the guards adds to the sense of unrest and impending danger in Hamlet. These feelings are deepened as the “ghost” appears. The presence of the ghost immediately adheres to the supernatural tendencies of Senecan plays, but nevertheless, the superstition surrounding it would be terrifying to the Shakespearean audience, as ghosts usually hold hellish connotations in Protestantism,  which was the main religion during the period in which Hamlet was written. The ghost is a major catalyst for the presentiment of chaos in this scene. And also the fact that there are “two Sentinels” on duty implies that there are possible preparations for an imminent attack. Furthermore, it becomes clear when Marcellus mentions that it is a Sunday that Claudius is breaking the Fourth Commandment, and thus compelling men to work on Sabbath. This would suggest to the audience that Claudius, the new king, was modern, pragmatic, and prepared to defy conventional morality.

During the time in which the play was set, religion and monarch always had to be intimate because it was assumed that religion and civil order went together, and it was always the task of the monarch to protect the Church and Christian society. Moreover, despite the play being set in Denmark and not England, it is still relevant because Shakespeare wrote Hamlet with the intentions to mirror English society, whilst remaining a safe level of distance from it without raising political questions. Therefore, this idea would have greatly influenced the Shakespearean audience in how the play portrayed Claudius’s character, which could possibly heighten sense of disorder because of his need to defy the religious norms of the time.

Disorder is immediately created in scene two because we learn that Denmark has recently lost a king, “Hamlet our dear brother’s death…our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe”. This idea of accordance with one another in “one brow of woe” is refuted when Claudius later adds, “Our state to be disjoint and out of frame”. This is in timing with young Fortbrinas’s threat from Norway, and the fact that Claudius only glosses over this topic during his soliloquy without going into too much detail heightens the audience’s suspicion of him. Moreover, Claudius also states in his soliloquy that Hamlet’s mourning presence is “unmanly grief”, and therefore, improper behaviour before the Court. Claudius also doubts his feelings, “why seems it so particular with thee”. Hamlet takes this to be an accusation that his feelings are false. This is comparable with Vindice in Revenger’s Tragedy, where he is see holding the skull of his “beloved” in the beginning of the play. This display of grief is what partly drives both characters on to conspire to commit revenge.

Notably, both Hamlet and Vindice see their adversaries as adulterers. In the first line of the Revenger’s Tragedy, Vindice refers to the Old Duke as “grey haired Adultery”, which exposes the corruption of the court and the Old Duke’s crimes, particularly the one against Vindice’s beloved. Hamlet, similarly, is angered by Claudius for committing adultery by marrying the Old King’s wife, Gertrude, a short time after his death. In his soliloquy, he focuses specifically on Gertrude’s sexuality to convey his anger, “Frailty, thy name is woman – a little month…married with my uncle”.  He is angry at his mother for being weak-willed and giving into pressure too soon. This rather misogynistic view of his mother has raised questions about the extent of love he has for his mother. Many critics believe that it is clear evidence that the reason why he wants revenge on Claudius is because he’s subconsciously jealous of him marrying Gertrude. Even during the Elizabethan era, the King’s marriage to Gertrude would be considered incestuous and unlawful, as it is a sin that is written in the Bible. This ultimately implies disorder because the audience is aware that the King is defying the religious norms of the time.

Hamlet’s first soliloquy also widens the sense of corruption within the Royal Court through using disease and uncleanliness imagery, “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable”, and, “seed; things rank and gross in nature”. These images of decay reveals his view of the withering and no longer healthy Denmark, and the listing indicates that he is fed up with the structure of the Court. Critics read “rank and gross” as a metaphor for Denmark, which insinuates corruption and disorderliness within the State. This parallels somewhat with Revenger’s because, through the main character Vindice, we learn of the amount of corruption within the Italian court, which is mainly governed by the Old Duke, whom Vindice is plotting revenge against. Hamlets’ of dislike of Claudius leads the audience to be suspicious of him, “A little more than kin, and less than kind”, this implies that though the two are related, they are dissimilar. This feeling of suspicion in subsequently concreted when the ghost tells Hamlet of his murder, where his loathing of Claudius is immensely justified, and the audience, too, becomes suspicious of the new Head of State.

The theme of unrest is projected in scene two because of the significant amount of secrecy that is needed. For instance, “If you have hitherto concealed this sight/ Let it be tenable in your silence still”. This is comparable with the 2010 remake of Hamlet, which starred David Tennant, where the idea of surveillance and the need for secrecy is relayed through the use of security cameras on set. This eludes to the idea that everyone is spying on one another, and thus, the emphasis on secrecy is necessary.

Distrust is a key theme that is conveyed within scene three when Polonius and Laertes advise Ophelia to stay away from Hamlet. According to Polonius, Hamlet is not genuine in his feelings and wants to take her as a mistress, “When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul/ Lends the tongue vows”. He believes that Hamlet, like any other person, will say anything to get what he wants. Laertes, on the other hand, is much more caring in his advice, “His greatness weighed, but his will is not his own”. So although Hamlet may love Ophelia, he cannot marry her; she would be a burden on the state because it needs a strong marriage to secure the health and stability of Denmark, “The main voice of Denmark goes withal”, the country is relying on Hamlet, and thus his marriage options are “circumscribed”, ruling out any hope for Ophelia, considering her inferior status within the court.

A sense of disarray and danger is underlined when Hamlet acts in spite of the security of Denmark, “I do not set my life at a pin’s fee…I’ll follow (the ghost)”, he acts as though his life is meaningless by putting his life in possible danger. This also strongly suggests that he has a low sense of self-worth, and thus adding to the theme of disorder. This idea is reinforced when, in Act one Scene two, he says, “My father’s brother, but no more like my father than I to Hercules”, he emphasises the difference between the old King and Claudius by comparing to a heroic Greek God. Marcellus directly indicates corruption and disruption within the court: “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. This is a clear foreshadowing of the events to come, which as we know, eventually leads to the death of Hamlet, Claudius and Gertrude, amongst known characters.

Marcellus hints at corruption when he says “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, though it is doubtful whether he is referring to the monarchy. More likely, he is indicating the presence of evil supernatural beings. This idea of foreboding of future events is reinforced when Marcellus says, “this bodes some strange eruption to our state”. Horatio is trying to find meaning in the apparition, and warns of its violent disturbance, which made the guards fear, despite being armed.

The ghosts’ story of incest and murder committed by the King in act five cements any suspicions of Claudius and of the true court politics. It is what justifies Hamlet’s sentiment of “A little more than kin and less that kind” and his revenge on the King. This is where the audience sees Hamlet’s gut feelings about Claudius become confirmed, “O, my prophetic soul”, he is understandably shocked and disgusted with his “damned villain(ous)” uncle, and shares this feeling with the ghost. The theme of dysfunction is emanated further on in the scene when Hamlet says, “time is out of joint”. He is directly stating to the audience that there are many things that are out of place and disorderly. This is where we see Hamlet coming to comprehend his role, he was “born to set it right”, to bring justice onto the system that he sees as vile and corrupt.

The first act of Hamlet is very powerfully descriptive. By using a number of literary devices, such as imagery, punctuation and listing, he uses them to convey themes of disorder and corruption in the play. Throughout, we get insights into Hamlet’s mind and the development of his character. We learn of the factors and faults of the court that eventually leads Hamlet to fulfil his revenge on who he sees as this “smiling, damned villain”, which is Claudius.

How Larkin writes about life choices in his poetry in comparison with Abse’s presentation of the theme.

In Larkin’s poetry he writes about life choices in a very detached style, he goes on the continuing concept that life choices are an illusion, that we are all a product of society devoid of any meaning or uniqueness. Also his poems are impersonal, they aren’t usually about him or his experience, and they are more relatable to a wider audience.  These are particularly evident in the poems ‘Self’s the Man’ and ‘As Bad as a Mile’. Abse’s style of writing, however, is more autobiographical and is based on his own experience which is evident ‘Postcard to his Wife’ and ‘Malham Bird’.

As Bad as a Mile is a short ‘AAABBB’ rhyme scheme poem that’s literally about attempting to throw and apple core into the bin but narrowly missing. Though a deeper look into it tells us that ‘failure’ is imminent because fate controls and dictates our life choices, it’s ‘spreading back up the arm’, so this term tells us that we’re never truly able to make our own decisions, it is merely an illusion.

This poem conveys the proverbial meaning that if you nearly succeed but ultimately fail then the result is the same as failing spectacularly. Also it conveys the idea that we’ve all an unchanged destiny and that it’s not ‘luck’ that you miss or don’t succeed at something, it’s just failure. The image of the ‘apple unbitten’ is a symbol of human nature and is linked to the Biblical illusion of the original sin, which lead to ‘failure spreading’ as a direct result of it.

It could be argued that the repetitive use of ‘Earlier and earlier’ is encouraging the reader to go  back into time of Adam and Eve, to witness the first independent life choice that was responsible for the downfall of mankind and therefore ‘failure spreading back up the arm’ is a direct that’s imminent as a result of that action.

The Malham Bird is a poem that is linked to As Bad as a Mile because of its allusive religious references. The actual Malham bird, according to the Jewish myth, was a bird from the Garden of Eden who went on to live a lonely, immortal life because it obeyed the commandments and didn’t eat the forbidden fruit. It is strongly suggested that Abse himself is the Malham bird because he was the faithful Jew who is now ‘lonely’ because of the death of his wife and feels ‘immortal’ because of all of the things he’s having to overcome.

Larkin and Abse write about the constant restrictions that refrain them from the ability to make their own life choices, though Abse is much more stylistically personal and autobiographical whereas Larkin is impersonal and somewhat emotionally detached, the narrator is an observer and critical, and Abse is the experiencer in the Malham Bird. Larkin’s ‘Englishness was so desolate and inhospitable that even the English were scandalised by it’, according to Martin Amis, thus his style was still unique, even in the category that it fit into.

Self’s the Man is a poem that explores the theme of selfishness that is connected to life choices such as marriage and having children.  Within the poem Larkin compares a single, companionless man to another who’s married. Arnold, the married man, has different ideologies in comparison, but through the use of rhetorical questions, (‘is there such a contrast?’), direct messages (‘Arnold is less selfish than I’) and Larkin becoming aware of his own inadequacies, (‘Or I suppose I can’) so he admits that his previous attitude was merely a facade to make himself feel more comfortable with his own reality. He reasons that selfishness is the reason for choosing to remain unmarried, and choosing to get married opens a rite of passage that may enable you to make your own decisions.

On the other hand this could be interpreted differently. He presents the stereotypical idea that marriage is another form of entrapment through a sexist tone, (‘married a woman to stop her getting away’), so the persona compares himself superior to Arnold because he doesn’t have a ‘woman’ that he’s tied to. This theme is reinforced possibly by purposely mocking the stereotypical women’s role in marriage, ‘the money he gets for wasting his life on work/ She takes as her perk’, and to ‘Put a screw in this wall’, so the portrayal is undermining and the imperative makes Arnold’s wife seem controlling and interfering, which then affect his ability to have decisions.

Interestingly the rhyming structure is AABB, which could represent his change or unravelling perception of marriage, and how that may restrict or free you. Another interpretation would be that is represents the ordinary, repetitive nature of marriage and peoples’ lives in general. To support the latter idea, the mundane pattern of marriage is underlined through the use of colloquial and casual language, ‘kiddies’ clobber’, so with marriage comes responsibilities and conventions that are necessary, which is brushed off with the persona saying ‘oh’, which seems as though he’s boastful about his own selfishness. He seems glad that he’s not Arnold because he’s aware of the realistic, repetitive situation that Arnold is in. with the persona we might assume is Larkin himself because we know that despite his close relationships with numerous women, especially Monica Jones and Ruth Bowman, he never married, and the poem’s speaker highlights the same sentiments that Larkin held, ‘the scrupulous awareness of a man who refuses to be taken in by inflated notions of either art or life’ (Peter R. King), so Larkin too disagreed with the concept of marriage as it was traditional and an unnecessary social trend that restricted people.

Postcard to his Wife is an Abse poem that is linked through the theme of choices and decisions with Larkin’s Self’s the Man.  His poem contrasts with Larkin’s idea that marriage restricts freedom, which, on the contrary, is more of an adventure which allows you the freedom to be adventurous, and it’s highlighted through words such as ‘whim’, ‘twisting’, ‘wild’, and this conveys Abse’s belief that even the simple things in marriage aren’t necessarily boring. Therefore Abse’s view and portrayal of marriage contrasts with Larkin’s own.

Abse portrays marriage in a much more romantic light in comparison to Larkin. He felt ‘blessed’ being with her, unlike Arnold and his wife in Self’s the Man who were only married to obey society’s traditions and expectations. Postcard to his Wife is a sentimental, personal and nostalgic poem that emphasises the persona’s longing for his wife. Again we can assume that this is an autobiographical poem because it’s closely linked to Abse’s wife, Joan Abse, who had died in a car crash in 2005 prior to this poem.

On a whole Larkin’s portrayal of life choices is critical and objective in his poetry, and Abse in contrast is subjective, relying on human emotions and feelings rather than observations and interpretations of others. Larkin has a rather pessimistic outlook on the theme of life choices, though many could interpret it as realistic and brutally honest.