What is the theme of the poem "A Poison Tree"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main theme of the poem is the danger of bottling up negative emotions instead of dealing with them.

The speaker relates how he was angry with a friend, but after telling him about his anger, it went away. This would suggest that it's best not to brood on things...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The main theme of the poem is the danger of bottling up negative emotions instead of dealing with them.

The speaker relates how he was angry with a friend, but after telling him about his anger, it went away. This would suggest that it's best not to brood on things and that, instead, we should always get things off our chest. Not only will this make it easier for us to move on, but it will also improve relations with our friends.

In relation to his enemy, the speaker adopted a different approach. Instead of coming right out and talking about his anger with him, the speaker bottled up all his negative thoughts, feeding them with his fears and tears while trying to cover them up with smiles and deceit.

As the speaker candidly confesses, this simply had the effect of making his anger grow. Blake uses the metaphor of a tree, a poison tree, no less, to emphasize how strong and sturdy the speaker's hatred and anger toward his enemy eventually became.

It says a lot about the speaker that he was very pleased when his enemy dropped dead after eating the poisoned apple from the tree. As his foe lay "outstretched beneath the tree," he felt very glad indeed.

But there's still a sense that the speaker hasn't really dealt with his negative emotions and that the hatred he felt toward his late enemy will not die with him. This is because, when it comes to his enemies, there's every reason to believe that the speaker will continue to bottle up his negative emotions toward them instead of taking the step of talking things through with them, as he would do with a friend.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on