Loathing of Urban Life Depicted in William Blake's "London" and John Betjeman's "Slough"

Loathing of Urban Life Depicted in William Blake's "London" and John Betjeman's "Slough"

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The poem ‘London’ by William Blake, expresses feelings of despair at the depressed state of the capital city in the late 18th century and the loathing of its inhabitants. William blake
The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which initially gives the impression that the poem will be a cheerful and upbeat poem. However, when you realise words such as ‘Weakness’ and ‘Woe’ the true hatred and resentment of the poem is shown.
In the first verse of the poem, the word ‘charter’d’ is repeated. The first use of ‘charter’d’ is implying that there is nothing new to discover and therefore is dull and boring. The repetition is used for emphasis highlighting the fact that even, the River Thames, which is a natural landform, has still been manipulated to benefit man. Blake uses the image of the Thames to portray the greed, wealth and power of the increasing aristocracy in a critical way.
In the second verse when Blake says, ‘and mark in every face I meet…’ he has noticed that every person has marks of weakness and that all the people use are very miserable with their life in the city. This is emphasised by the use of the verb ‘mark’, which has connotations of being tarnished. The repetition of ‘every’ acts as a hyperbole creating an exasperated tone at the hardship of the Londoners. Blake uses the term ‘Mind forged manacles’ which acts as a powerful metaphor that suggests the people’s minds have been chained and are trapped with no escape.
In the third verse, the poem says, ‘Every blackening church appals.’ Its is trying to show that he believes that the church is evil and corrupt shown trough ‘blackening’ as the colour black is usually associated with death, evil and corruption. Also, this links to the earlier used verb ‘mock’ and the ...


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...the people who have the higher-class jobs and who think they are better than you because they have jobs in which they can afford ‘labour saving homes’ and go on expensive day trip to ‘Maidenhead’ with their wives who use ‘synthetic air’, to dry their hair which is implying that lots of things about Slough are unreal and un-natural. Because the poem is so hateful and sarcastic, it becomes funny.
Both the poems have many similarities like both poems paint a very bleak picture of the place and both dislike the unoriginality of the place. But they also have differences such as ‘Slough’ has an abrupt 4th line and ‘London’ uses a great deal of concrete imagery. In my opinion I think that ‘London’ paints a picture of a city in much need of re-development and to help the people get their lives back on track because eventually the city will torn apart by its own citizens.

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