What does "The Tyger," written by William Blake in 1794, suggest to you about the ways in which individuals take responsibility for themselves and others? Support your idea(s) with references like...

What does "The Tyger," written by William Blake in 1794, suggest to you about the ways in which individuals take responsibility for themselves and others? Support your idea(s) with references like quotes with explanation.

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question, as I have to say I never thought about the poem in terms of individual responsibility. However, the following question runs throughout the poem:

What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 
This question asks a monotheistic God how he could create a creature as fearful and dangerous as a tiger, with its predatory ability to devour the innocent. In other words, what was he thinking, what personal responsibility was he taking, when he made this predator?
 
Since humans are made in the image of God, and one of our distinctive features is the ability to create, the poem implicitly also asks us if we are taking personal responsibility for what we create. We can create objects that are beautiful and powerful, but we can also "twist the sinews of [the tiger's predatory] heart" and make the tiger's "dread hand and . . . dread feet."
 
There are many ways to read this poem, but one is to liken the creation of the tyger to that of the factory. In other words, the tyger is a metaphor for the factory. We know industrialism was making England a very wealthy nation in this period and that more and more factories were popping up in once rural environments. We know, too, that like most Romantic poets, Blake preferred nature and the rural to the industrialized and the urban.
 
This poem contrasts with the rural and bucolic setting of "The Lamb," its companion piece in Songs of Innocence. Industrial images that conjure the factory surround the "tyger. He is forged by "chain," by "furnace" and "burning brightly" into the night, as factories would, with their long shifts—and some went 24 hours a day. 
 
The poem thus asks, implicitly, what personal responsibility the creators of these factories, on the one hand powerful and burning brightly, on the other hand grasping and predatory, had towards those workers devoured by their "tygers?"
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Blake is generally considered the earliest successful British poet of the Romantic era. As a romanticist, Blake was inclined to write imaginatively about the mysteries of nature. Although Blake doesn't literally say so, it appears that with “The Tyger” he is looking at God's act of creating the being that eventually became Satan.

 

As far as individuals taking responsibility is concerned, it could be argued that God is taking responsibility for creating the immortal angel that would one day revolt and betray him. Blake stresses the fearsomeness of the “Tyger,” who most likely symbolizes Satan, with these lines from the first stanza:

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame their fearful symmetry?

And these from a later stanza:

. . . what dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors grasp?

Blake sees Satan as something that is so terrifying it could only be constrained (grasped) by God--only God has the power to actually take on the responsibility of creating at being like Satan.  

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