In "Toads," poet Philip Larkin explores the similarities of societal and biological toads, comparing the two in a 36-line poem. Ultimately, Larkin elaborates on the negative qualities of both kinds of toads and concludes that there is no way to hide from them.
Larkin introduces readers to the societal toad in the first line, which begins "why should I let the toad work/squat on my life." Here, the toad represents work, and Larkin’s use of this metaphor calls attention to the negative societal connotations embodied by toads. The poem then likens worker toads to physical toads, expressing resemblance between the two as ugly and repulsive petty creatures. Larkin then continues to compare physical toads with work, stating that the unattractive and undesirable traits of both toads and work are essentially contagious. Larkin uses metaphors to add feeling and emotion in the first stanza, and does the same for the second and third. The second stanza continues with a broad physical description of the toad, where Larkin likens the critter to a poison. In the third through fifth stanzas, Larkin expresses pity for individuals trapped by societal bounds — unable to escape work and its negative attributes — much like toads cannot escape their genes.