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Social Criticism In William Blake's Songs Of Innocence And Experience

903 words - 4 pages

William Blake was a social critic of his time, yet his criticism also reflects society of our own time as well. He mainly communicates humanitarian concerns through his "Songs of Innocence and Experience'; which express two opposite states of the human soul, happiness or misery, heaven or hell. "Innocence'; expresses the state of childhood, into which we are all born, a state of free imagination and infinite joy. "Experience';, according to Blake, is man's state when disaster has destroyed the initial ecstasy. He believes that problems concerning child labor, religious institutions, individual apathy, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, war and marriage are the result of humankind's carelessness. He explores this point of view particularly in two of his poems "London'; and "The Chimney Sweeper'; both from "The Songs of Innocence';. He voices his disapproval over these injustices caused by humankind primarily through the use of irony, imagery, symbolism and a clever choice of language.

     Through a set of literary devices such as imagery and language, Blake protests against various forms of oppression resulting from humans in his poem "London'; which speaks about a slice of life in London in his times. Blake believes that an individual's state of mind enslaves itself. Therefore, he refers to the Thames and the city streets as "chartered';(1) alluding to the image that man-made conventions and laws have succeeded in placing man in captivity and making them unable to escape from their molded path. Blake also implies that man perverts everything into something impure. The water, which was once a beautiful natural river, has now become polluted for merely economic purposes, which illustrates man's negligence. Blake also believes that without man's government, man could live in peace and in freedom. Instead, the image we are becoming used to is one of "marks of woe';(4) on the faces of the pedestrians, and we hear "every infants cry of fear';(6). Blake states that people participate in their oppression by not helping to solve society's problems when he writes that there is an effect of "mind-forg'd manacles';(8) on every man. In the third stanza, Blake describes that the people involved in religious institutions participate in the oppression because they not only allow child labor but encourage it. In addition, Blake states that the "Palace'; (12), symbolizing man's government, also oppresses society because soldiers are forced to sacrifice their lives and that these tired victims can only sigh by not speaking up to their oppression:
How the chimney-sweerper's cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down the Palace walls.
(9-12)

By the end of the poem, man's repression has clearly caused the death of everything. Hence the husband who visits...

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