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Sociological Criticism On William Blake’s Poetry

1427 words - 6 pages

Sociological criticism emphasizes on the political, economic, and cultural aspect of the literature, and one of its main focuses is evaluating the writings from Marxist perspective, which examines the writing in mostly political and economic fashion, including ideas such as communism and social inequality. The idea of class oppression is clearly represented in many of William Blake’s writings. Blake’s opposition against the exploitation of the capitalists towards the proletariats is obvious in many of his poems. Blake’s ideology of a fine society could be described in the saying of another influential thinker, Karl Marx. Marxist criticism explains the reasons behind Blake’s anger towards the social inequality. Poems like “The Chimney Sweeper” and “London” illustrate Blake’s despairing sadness towards the phenomena produced by the unjust inequality exist in 18th century England. In “The Chimney Sweeper”, Blake expresses his anger of the late 18th and 19th century's use of child labor in urban England. In “London”, Blake illustrates the depressing class oppression that could be easily seen through the streets of London.
Often considered by scholars as the greatest pioneer of the Romantic writing in English literature, Blake's poetry consistently embraces the idea of rebellion against the abuse of class power. Blake encountered both American and French revolutions and was heavily influenced by the sense of liberation in both revolutions. He was also concerned about the negative effects of the industrial revolution, which further polarized the income distribution among different classes. The British Marxist historian E.P. Thompson classified Blake as having many similar beliefs as Karl Marx in his works, and showed that Blake was possibly one of the most radical opponents of the British monarchy during the English Civil War.
Karl Marx once said, “Capital is dead labor.” In “The Chimney Sweeper”, the labor is the poor children who are the victims of such system, which creates the class oppression with income disparity. Blake illustrates the image of a child who is victimized under the unjust social condition created by the capitalist system. The sentence “my father sold me while yet my tongue” (2) illustrates the abuse of child labor during that time. Under capitalism, the proletariats are unable to free themselves from the recourse controller – the bourgeois. Thus economic inequality is the result of such restraint from sustaining even basic standard of living. The child in the poem is unable to escape the economic oppression, as expresses in the sentence “your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep” (4), ergo it explains his unfortunate situation as a child labor working in a dirty chimney. Blake uses the color black often to represent sin against innocence. This sharp contrast could be compared to the difference between the two economic systems, capitalism and communism. With capitalism, income is distributed less evenly in the society; the poor...

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