Mind Forged Manacles

What are the "mind forged manacles" in Blake's "London"?

I understand that the "mental handcuffs" is the idea that suffering is created from within. I wonder if I am correct in asserting that Blake viewed prostitutes, soldiers and chimney sweepers as being obstacles to their own freedom or potential? That they are not able to surpass their "lot in life" because of these mental constrictions? Am I on the right track or completely off-base? Any help greatly appreciated.

Expert Answers

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In his poem about London, William Blake cries out against privilege, rank, wealth, church and establishment on behalf of the poor, the destitute and the enslaved. I think you are definitely on the right track, and some deeper research into the hsitorical context of the poem set in the filthy city streets of London at that time would benefit you even more. The words 'mind-forged' are reminiscent of two things. Firstly, the word 'forged' suggests eternity and the world of manufacturing, technology and industry - such as that in a blacksmith's forge. Eternity is suggested by the lasting 'weld' or 'imprint' that forging gives. Blake suggests that 'manacles' are forged for ever in these people's minds, as well as in their daily environments and experiences. The hurdles, blocks and challenges to progress, either spiritual or practical, are a permanent mental block of disadvantage.

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