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William Blake often creates sympathetic and arresting figures, even when utterly...

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user1670568 | eNoter

Posted April 13, 2013 at 8:21 AM via web

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William Blake often creates sympathetic and arresting figures, even when utterly condemning them. Consider Songs of Innocence and Experience in light of this remark.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 8, 2013 at 6:43 AM (Answer #1)

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This is certainly an interesting angle to use to view this great work of poetry. However, it seems that whilst Blake undeniably does create sympathetic and arresting figures in his works, his criticism is based on the social system that allows such tragic figures to be created rather than the figures themselves. For example in "The Chimney Sweeper" in The Songs of Experience, it is absolutely clear that the "little black thing" crying "weep weep" piteously lives such a terrible life partly because of "God and his priest and king," where his parents are currently worshiping, because the structural system of religion makes "up a heaven of our misery." What is condemned therefore is not the poor helpless chimney sweep himself, but rather the societal system that creates and perpetuates such inequality.

This can be supported by an analysis of "London," which paints an incredibly grim picture of this capital city:

In every cry of every man,

In every infant's cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forged manacles I hear:

The repetition of the phrase "In every..." reinforces the tragedy of the presentation of this city, and the reference to the "mind-forged manacles" serves to underline that the state of enchainment that the people find themselves in is not a natural state, but rather something that is produced as a result of society and people's acceptance of social inequality. Thus, throughout his work, Blake exposes social injustices through the presentation of pitiable figures who engage the sympathy of the reader. However, Blake's condemnation rests solely upon society at large for the creation of such figures rather than condemining the figures themselves.

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