Analysis of Money by Philip Larkin


Philip Larkin was born in Coventry, England in 1922. He Earned his BA from St. John’s College Oxford. He worked in libraries his entire life. He was one of post-war England’s most famous poets and was commonly referred to as ‘England’s other Poet Laureate.’ Despite his wide popularity, Larkin preferred to live a shielded life from publicity.

Larkin wrote about the stunted lives of people around him in post-war Britain and explored the spoiled desires of people that were a direct result of post-war consumerism and the rising commercialization. His viewpoint allied with the poets of ‘The Movement’, a collection of writers who were against modernism and who wanted to preserve the English values. They preferred rationality over emotions and presented realistic views about the self and the world. Their works were nostalgic about the earlier Britain and contained pastoral images of the decaying way of life in Britain.

Money is a poem where the use of money, especially the different ways money function to give meaning to life is being critically analyzed. There is a subtle hint of criticism against all the consumerist values that the society has adopted through its addiction to money, and especially spending. All the trappings of the modern society are achieved by spending money, and not saving money.



Title: common medium which is used as a medium of exchange. In the modern world money has become a central factor to decide the wealth of people.

Rhyme scheme: AA BB (regular rhyming couplet seemingly compare money and life)

Tone: Understanding, Conversational 

Theme: Criticism on consumerism, impermanence of money, modern values and life

Narration: First person, the speaker who seemingly a money-saver, compares his way of life with others around him and worries about the way money affected the people.  

Main technique: Personification


Deep-end Analysis

Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:

‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?

I am all you never had of goods and sex.

You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’


Personification: money reproaches me (money has been given human qualities as it is a person who can influence people - which is the truth as Larkin reveals)

Symbol: goods and sex (Represent modern values: material comforts and sensual pleasures)


At the onset, money mocks at the narrator for saving money without spending them. ‘Quarterly’ may suggest that the speaker may earn a monthly salary. The poet satirizes the modern values on indulging more materialistic pleasures and less savings. He ironically portrays the convetion: saving money is a waste and they are to be spent on ‘goods and sex.’ Addition to that poet shows how spending has become too much easier than earning as a result of introducing ‘cheques’; just like today – credit cards persuade people to purchase things beyond their level of income.

After the world war with the rise of commercialism, people in Britain got used to a life of spending money and enjoying material pleasures: the phrase ‘good and sex’ shows that very convention in that period of time. Larkin criticizes this new convention which spoiled the good English values in their past.    



So I look at others, what they do with theirs:

They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.

By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:

Clearly money has something to do with life


Second stanza shows how other people around him enjoy modern luxuries by spending money unlike the speaker. He points out the over-consumption of modern luxuries of people by indulging things beyond their actual necessities: ‘a second house and car and wife.’  Last two lines are ironically reveals the influence of money which forces people to indulge beyond their needs.


—In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:

You can’t put off being young until you retire,

And however you bank your screw, the money you save

Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.


Metaphor: your screw (hard earned money) buy you more than a shave (of a little use or worth: like the final shave of the face of the death body) you can’t put off being young until you retire (you cannot stop aging)


In the third stanza, poet compares money and the life. He ponders upon the fact that life is aging and the money you put in the bank will not be any use after your death. Here, he counter argues his own criticism that both money and life are there to be spent. Here the poets understanding of the impermanence of both life and money brings about his other theme of the poem: the transitory nature of everything.


I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down

From long french windows at a provincial town,

The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad

In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.


Personification: money singing (money singing means that the money plays the tune for people to dance and people dance according to its tune.)

Symbol: long French windows (upper class living)


In the last stanza, Larking highlights how money has governed the lives of people in every nook and corners of the society irrespective of the social class or the status of people. He is sad of the predicament of the people in the contemporary society who has been entrapped by money and enslaved by it.

The poem Money by Philip Larkin is a profile of modern society which is haunted by ‘I have one life’ convention. People runs after an ‘American Dream’ chasing luxuries to enjoy this ‘one life’. Poet is sad due to the fact that people lose their spiritual qualities due to consumerist values. Money has been given too much of importance in human lives which has caused to lose much needed human qualities like love, empathy and contentment.

Isn’t this the story of most people in the world? what is your idea? Please drop a comment below if this is your story too. 




Post a Comment


  1. The poem can align with our current society. It pains my heart to even live in this kind of environment. Thank you sir for the analysis! It helped me a lot

  2. Im actually quite sad about the world today including Sri Lanka. The least few of those with spiritual values struggle to survive in this wild life without getting consumed.

  3. This poem is very appropriate for what is happening in the entire world today. It is an authentication of capitalistic society that polarised the world into two. The satirical comments of the money itself reflects the amount of influence of it upon general public. As far as my understanding we all are enslaved and could not think of getting away. This very fact reflects the universality of the work of the poet although it was written long before.