Blake’s legendary poem “The Tyger” is deceivingly straightforward. Though Blake uses “vividly simple language” (Hirsch, 244), the poem requires a deeper understanding from the reader. There are many misconceptions concerning the symbols in “The Tyger” (specifically the tiger itself). This often leads to confusion concerning the underlying message of the poem. Compared to Blake’s “meek” and “mild” lamb, the tiger is hard to accept. It is a symbol for that which people fear. For some, their fears are not reality, and are much easier to ignore than accept. But no matter how hard to accept, the lamb and tiger are equally important, and together create a balance that is ideally healthy for the world. The Tyger can be interpreted through many different theologies, as a form of the sublime, and as an essential part of human life.
Because Blake is ambiguous about the tiger’s nature it is hard to understand. Blake uses paradox to his advantage in the first stanza, which creates an ambiguous effect:
The expressions “forests of the night” and “fearful” have a menacing quality that is negative in nature. On the other hand “bright” and “symmetry” (a sign of perfection) have positive overtones, and are more commonly associated with goodness. Blake has given many clues; and the effect is such that the reader is led to believe that the tiger has both good and evil qualities. The one underlying question that Blake asks of the reader: what God could “dare” (l.24) to create such a creature?
According to the Christian doctrine, there is one God who is the maker of everything. Though there is much argument over how much He partakes in the creation of evil. Nonetheless, this passage is found in the Bible: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). The tiger could very well be the expression of this God. There are many other beliefs in the world besides Christianity within which the tiger can be proven to reside. Monotheism, for example, is the “belief in a single, universal, all-encompassing deity”(Wikipedia). This deity could also be the “immortal hand” that formed the Tyger. Manicheanism, one of the major ancient religions, uses the theology of dualism as its main principle. The Dualism doctrine can be said to “consist of two basic opposing...
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...he tiger and the lamb.” (250) Ultimatley, the reader must make the decision whether the tyger is a positive or negative part of life.
1. E.D. Hirsch, JR. Innocence and Experience: And Introduction to Blake USA: Yale University, 1964.
2. The Holy Bible containing The Old and New Testaments, King James Version Toronto: Canadian Bible Society.
3. “Dualism”, “Monotheism”, “Christianity”, Manicheanism”, “Taoism” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
4. Roy P. Basler. “The Tyger: A Psychological Interpretation” Sex, Symbolism, and Psychology in Literature. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1948. 20-24.
5. Morton D. Paley, “Tyger of Wrath”. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Ed. Morton D. Paley. USA: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 68-92
6. “Manicheanism” Encyclopedia of the Orient http://i-cias.com/e.o/manichae.htm
7. William Blake. “The Tyger”, Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. E.V. Roberts and H. E. Jacobs 7th Ed. USA: Pearson Prentice Hall 2004.
8. William Shakespeare, “Henry V” Shakespeare-literature.com
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