Discuss the effect of the Industrial Revolution on the poetry of William Blake and William Wordsworth.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Romantic thinkers like Blake and Wordsworth were impacted by the Industrial Revolution on a couple of levels.  The ascension of the Industrial Revolution had a couple of effects that flew in the face of Romantic thinkers like Wordsworth and Blake.  The growing embrace of conformity and materialism disturbed both thinkers, who were more about a subjective expression of the good that was rooted in distinctive authenticity.  Both thinkers were concerned about this particular rise of materialism and conformity in terms of silencing people's voices as to the dangers inherent in the increase of industrialization.  For example, when Blake writes about young boys who are exposed to the horrors of their occupations in "The Chimney Sweeper," a definite statement is made about how industrialization poses specific dangers which Romantic thinkers felt was their obligation to identify.  Thinkers like Wordsworth echoed similar sentiments in their own works:

Romantic writers were aware of these changes [caused by Industrialization], which presented such a contrast between the hellish life of the city laborer and the purity and peace of nature. The industrial changes convinced many romantics the natural world was purer than the industrial one, and that nature was a place of spiritual truth, release, and renewal. In "The Excursion," Wordsworth applauds the advances in science and technology that made the mills possible, but also criticizes the exploitation of women and children, the dehumanizing work shifts, and the all-encompassing greed of the factory owners.

In the end, the Industrial Revolution left an impact on Romantic thinkers like Blake and Wordsworth, and actually helped to give voice to their intellectual pursuits because it allowed them to identify what specific elements existed in society that necessitated change and transformation.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of what motivate the Romantic thinkers like Blake and Wordsworth to believe so passionately in their ideas was the Industrial Revolution.  It is almost as if they carved their philosophy as a diametric opposite of this moment in history.  Whereas the Industrial Revolution stressed homogeneity and interchangeable parts to maximize production, Romantic thinkers argued for individuality and uniqueness.  Whereas the Industrial Revolution sought to generalize everything to money, production, and profit, the Romantic thinkers argued for a sense of distinction and the ability to "see into the life of things."  Whereas the Industrial Revolution devalued emotions, the Romantic thinkers lauded them.  The ideas that generated the Industrial Revolution- a movement whose origins of capitalism defined the notion of wealth and progress- stood in stark opposition to the Romantic thinkers who felt that the crowded conditions of urbanization caused by industrialization is of critical importance to define oneself against.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Industrial Revolution totally changed the lives of most of the people who lived through it.  It made life more mechanized.  It brought people together in crowded cities.  It broke down the old bonds that held small communities together.  Wordsworth and Blake (along with many others) were really unhappy with and critical of the new society.

You can see this in the poems "London" by Blake and "London 1802" by Wordsworth.  Blake's poem shows how people's lives have been degraded by city living until nothing is pure anymore.  Wordsworth's is more intellectual, but it describes England as a "fen" where people have lost their noble natures.

kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The contemporary French revolution was highlighted in Wordsworth's Solitary Reaper.Blake's London poems represent the the modern metropolitan city of  London. Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocense, Marriage of Hell and Heavean.

Wordsworth and Blake were part of the Romantic movement. People were fed up with the pollution and how their daly lives were becoming so far removed from nature, that the IR brought to Europe. Due to this, Wordsworth and others began to worship nature and go against the sociaEnorms of the era.