Comment on the use of William Blake's poetry in Skellig to build atmosphere.

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William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience both play a part in the building of atmosphere in David Almond's Skellig.

The poems presented in both of Blake's collections highlight ideas pitted against one another as one moves from innocence to experiences in life. The sister poems...

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William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience both play a part in the building of atmosphere in David Almond's Skellig.

The poems presented in both of Blake's collections highlight ideas pitted against one another as one moves from innocence to experiences in life. The sister poems with the same titles illustrate how Blake's own ideologies changed as he grew in knowledge. One of the most important ideas Blake highlights within the collections is the loss of innocence and identity as one grows in knowledge. As one becomes more knowledgable, he or she begins to lose his or her identity. This individualism is often lost when one succumbs to the beliefs and constraints held by society at large.

The novel's inclusion of "The School-Boy" speaks to the sadness of losing one's innocence. As one becomes educated, he or she learns about the importance of conforming in order to fit in. The poem's tone helps to illustrate the atmosphere of the text by highlighting the sadness of confinement in a classroom. This poem is included in the section where Mina contemplates home-schooling.

Almond also includes Blake's "The Angel" in his novel. The use of this poem helps to illustrate an atmosphere of acceptance. People, according to both the poem and the novel (as Mina defines), must accept things for what they are and not spend their lives fighting against things they do not necessarily understand. The speaker in the poem is visited by an angel. The speaker finds herself (as denoted by being named "a maiden Queen") questioning the dream and its possible meanings. By dwelling on the dream, something which is not even real, the speaker spends her whole life (until "grey hairs were on my head") trying to figure out the unnecessary meaning. Mina states that there are things that we must just accept, regardless if we understand them: acceptance.

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William Blake's poetry appears several times throughout the novel and has many influences. Blake's work reflects in the characters' journey from innocence to experience. We learn throughout the novel that Michael becomes more aware of his surroundings and considers spiritual aspects of the world from his good friend Mina. By the end of the novel when Skellig leaves, Michael has let the events shape him into becoming a confident caretaker for his baby sister. Another way Blake's work is referenced is in Mina's rejection of constraints in any environment and her need for freedom. Mina disapproves of schools and has a lack of faith in the education system. Mina, who is home schooled, believes formal schools have restrictive environments and faulty instructional methods. Blake commonly references freedom and openness.A rejection of constraints and freedom of thought is highlighted in Blake's Songs of Innocence.The bird, who Mina associates with freedom, is a common theme throughout the book and Blake's writing. Skellig, though it is not entirely clear, has both birdlike and angelic qualities in his wings. Skellig's journey back to health showcases his magical ability. It is thought that he is either a bird or angel and has a close connection to the spiritual world. The novel ends with Michaels' baby sister overcoming her illness with the help of Skellig and being named Joy. Homage to Infant Joy by Blake.

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The poetry of William Blake is certainly something that adds greatly to the atmosphere of this brilliant novel, and in particular helps us to understand the kind of situation that Michael faces and comments upon education and discovery. If we look at the first allusion to Blake, for example, we see it comes in Chapter Fifteen and is when Mina and Michael are talking about education and how Mina is educated at home. Note what Mina says about being taught at home:

We believe that schools inhibit the natural curiosity, creativity and intelligence of children. The mind needs to be opened out into the world, not shuttered down inside a gloomy classroom.

The quotes that follow come from Blake's poem, "The School-Boy," which is a proclamation of the joy in life and an attack against school as something that shuts and locks students away from the outside world. As Mina quotes, "How can a bird that is born for joy / Sit in a cage and sing?"

Again and again, Blake's poems and his emphasis on the need for freedom from restraint and how societal forces imprison and crush us are used to suggest and establish the various ways in which Michael suffers similar experiences from his world, and his struggle to break out.

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