What is the theme statement for William Blake's "The Tyger"?

Expert Answers
rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blake's "The Tyger" appears in his Songs of Innocence and Experience as a song of "experience." These poems appear to be nursery rhymes, but in fact the idea at work behind Blake's "innocence and experience" dichotomy has to do with the nature of good and evil, and God's relationship to man.

In the case of "The Tyger," the theme is essentially expressed as a question in the first stanza, "What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" (l. 2-4) In other words, what are we mortals to infer about God (the "immortal hand or eye") given the dreadful nature of the tiger?

The next three stanzas simply rephrase this question over and over, with ever escalating language. The images in this section of the poem compare God to a blacksmith, fashioning the tiger (and, presumably, all creation) at the forge:

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp? (l. 13-16)

Stanza five turns the question around, asking to know if God "smiled his work to see," suggesting that might have taken a perverse joy in creating a deadly animal. The final stanza returns to the question posed originally, only rephrasing it as "What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" By substituting the word "dare" for the more neutral "could" of the first stanza, the poet clearly is expressing outrage at the existence of evil in the world, and challenging the moral authority of God.