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Analysis of Blake's London

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Analysis of Blake's London  


In the formal approach method to critical analysis, it is essential to read William Blake's "London" mechanically. Blake uses his rhetorical skills of alliteration, imagery, and word choice to create his poem, but more importantly to express the emotional significance that is implied.


William Blake's poem, "London", is obviously a sorrowful poem. In the first two stanzas, Blake utilizes alliteration and word choice to set the mournful atmosphere. Blake introduces his reader to the narrator as he "wanders" through the "chartered" society. A society in which every person he sees has "marks of weakness, marks of woe." Blake repeatedly uses the word "every" and "cry" in the second stanza to symbolize the depression that hovers over the entire society. The "mind-forged manacles" the narrator hears suggests that he is not mentally stable.


In the third stanza, Blake utilizes imagery of destruction and religion. This imagery is a paradox, which implies some religious destruction like the apocalypse. The "chimney-sweeper's cry" symbolizes the society trying to clean the ashes that causes their state of depression. Blake uses the religious imagery of the "black'ning church" to represent the loss of innocence, and the society's abandonment of religion. The use of the soldiers creates an imagery of war. The "hapless soldier's sigh" symbolize how men are drafted into war and have no choice but to serve their country. As these soldiers unwilling march to the beat of the country's forceful drum, they know their lives will be taken, as their "sigh runs in blood down palace walls." Blake uses this sense of destruction to explain how people are forced to repair the "weakness" and "woe" of their society.


The fourth stanza of "London" unravels the complex meaning of the poem. The "youthful harlot's curse" symbolizes how the youth's sinful deeds will effect the next generation. Their "curse" causes the "newborn infant's tear" which exemplifies how the new generation will have to correct the mistakes of the previous generation. The "plagues" also symbolizes this curse, and the "marriage hearse" creates a paradox, which confuses eternity and death.


William Blake's "London" is a poem about a society that is troubled by the mistakes of the generation before. Blake uses the rhetorical components of imagery, alliteration, and word choice to illustrate the meaning of the poem. What exactly does this poem mean? Blake creates complexity by using his rhetorical skills, which in turn opens up the poem for personal interpretation.

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