The poet appears to be sarcastic towards his “unspent” childhood as the use of “no” and “never” throughout the poem helps to distinguish this. It gives a negative, pessimistic, bleak outlook on childhood.
The bitterness is emphasised when the poet adds, “Who didn’t call and tell my father There before us, had we the gift to see ahead”. The abrupt ending suggests that the next phrase might have been that the boy has a gift for writing. The bitterness is brought out by his dreams never being fulfilled in his childhood.
The poet may not blame Coventry for his lack of fulfilling his dreams in childhood. It is hard to tell whether this is the case when the character in the poem gives a lacklustre reply; “Oh well, I suppose it’s not the place’s fault”. The use of “oh well” and “I suppose” give us an indication that the poet is not convinced of the statement he made. He is not convinced by this declaration.
Finally, the erratic, inconsistent rhyming scheme epitomises his childhood. The disorderly and spontaneous nature is like his unfulfilled dreams of his childhood.
Now, I shall move onto the similarities. Both poems seem to be negative towards childhood. Growing Up describes the main character as “out of step”. I Remember, I Remember trivialises the place where Larkin grew up with “I wasn’t even clear which side was which”.
Both poems seem to have a bitter view of childhood, too. Fanthorpe uses the phrase “Was caught bloody-thighed a criminal guilty of puberty”. The idea of her being a criminal gives a bitter tone. Whereas, Larkin sarcasm. “Nor read by a distinguished cousin of the mayor” is sarcastic due to the unnecessary need for the “nor”. However, this gives a bitter feel towards childhood.
Both poets describe their childhoods as annoying or unspent. Fanthorpe uses “nudging me” as a way of expressing the urging, insistent, annoying angle of growing up. Larkin, on the other hand, describes his childhood as “unspent”. This gives the reader a feeling of regret that he may be expressing.
Finally, childhood is trivialised in both poems. A use of athos in Fanthorpe’s account instantaneously degrades and mocks childhood. An example of this is “shoplifting daintily into my pram”. The oxymoron gives a light-hearted, but mocking view of childhood. Larkin’s approach is to degrade childhood by giving a final, bleak summing up of his childhood. “Nothing, like something, happens anywhere” is a bleak, uncertain sum up of the poem. The fact that “nothing” is before “something” increases the insubstantial idea of his childhood. The use of “unspent” gives little value to childhood, at the same time.
There are differences too in the approach and message of the two poets in their respective works. The first contrast is that Fanthorpe uses the idea of “well-oiled bolts” to emphasise the mechanical nature of childhood. However, Larkin shows growing up to be spontaneous and disorderly as the inconsistent, erratic rhyme scheme is like the dreams of his childhood wasted.
At the same time, Fanthorpe gives the idea of childhood being sordid by giving horrifically intimate details about puberty. Such an example is “hairy, fleshy growths and monthly outbursts”. However, Larkin is not warm towards childhood as he describes it as “cold”. He does not mention any intimate details, or recollections of sordid experiences.
Larkin shows his embarrassment and bitterness to his childhood when he “wishes the place in hell” and “staring at my boots”. Fanthorpe describes childhood as imminent and a force that you cannot fight against. It is a definite thing that is inevitable. We get this feeling when she “was caught…a criminal guilty of puberty”.
Finally, in Fanthorpe’s account, there appears to be something sinister about childhood. The use of “dark”, “Masonic”, “sabotaging”, “masking” and “shoplifting” emphasises this point. However, in Larkin’s poem, he associates childhood with boredom. This is shown to be the case when “staring at my boots” is used to show boredom.
These are the impressions we form of childhood in the two poems with similarities and differences shown in each poet’s approach.