Compare The Large Cool Store with The Munich Mannequins

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Compare The Large Cool Store with The Munich Mannequins The Large Cool Store and The Munich Mannequins both take as their starting-point the displays of a clothes shop. Larkin’s speaker is struck by the differences between the everyday and the evening clothes; he is led to wonder what these clothes suggest about the people who choose them. Plath’s speaker is less interested in the clothes than the mannequins designed to display them, seeing in the mannequins a symbol of perfection in all its artificiality and ugliness. Both Larkin and Plath use their chosen focus as a ‘springboard’ to lead them to the deeper concerns of their poems. In Larkin’s case, this emerges in an attempt to identify the illusion that underlies the popularity of the clothes: whether it is the nature of love, the nature of women, or men’s assumptions about women. In Plath’s case, the affirmation of her own femininity and life force are enclosed within the perfection of death that encloses the poem. The language of The Large Cool Store expresses the Speaker’s attitude towards the clothes. Larkin uses words that draw attention to the poor quality of the evening clothes, which are ‘Machine-embroidered, thin as blouses’. The illusion of quality is created through the colours: yellow has become ‘lemon’, blue has become ‘sapphire’, red has become ‘rose’, the words implying exoticism. Equally, the phrase coined to describe the evening wear ‘Modes For Night’ evokes romantic associations in its use of a French word. The ironic inappropriateness of this word when juxtaposed with the mundane English ‘Night’ implies the mocking attitude of the Speaker. Larkin suggests the movement of the clothes through carefully chosen words: ‘rose’ (also an adjective) and ‘flounce’ (also a noun) both function as verbs, reflecting how the displays attract the eyes of the customers. The language of The Munich
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