william blake Essay

William Blake Essay

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Kenneth James English Lit. Dr. Mary 12 July 2000 William Blake: “Under the Microscope” William Blake grew up the son of a haberdasher with close to zero education in a London suburb. He worked as an apprentice for a well- known engraver, then married an illiterate wife at the age of twenty-four. Blake encountered many hardships in his life including being arrested for making slanderous statements about king and country. All of the events that Blake endured in his life had a great influence on his masterful writing and allowed him to virtually perfect the elements of point of view, setting, characterization, tone, theme, and irony. In first person point of view the author is extremely restricted because one of the characters is telling the story, eliminating the author as narrator. In Willliam Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper”, in Songs of Experience, the story is told through the eyes of a little boy. And unlike most of Blake’s work this poem is not written in a form known as “all may read”(DLB 93). When Blake wrote the rebound of his first collection, “Songs of Innocence”, his vision of his audience might have been a little blurred ;therefore, we as an audience have to take into consideration the mental state of the speaker that Blake has created. In this particular poem the speaker is “a little black thing among the snow”. One reason this poem is not an “all may read” poem is because if the reader is not familiar with Blake’s work he or she may not understand why this boy is being called “a little black thing” ;this is not to construe the thought of a racial slur or anything of the nature. The little boy is black because he is covered in soot from the chimney, but how are we to know unless we are familiar with “Innocence”. For those who still are familiar with his work it is difficult to understand his perspective because he goes from fiction to realistic and then back to fiction without missing a beat. Later in this poem of “Experience” the little boy talks about smiling “among the winter’s snow” giving we the reader the impression of some white, snow-capped environment when at that particular time “there was very little snow in London”(PC 12) the whole winter. So he expects the reader to be able to envision this oasis of “social forces that have reduced him (the boy) to misery”(DLB 93). Which brings us to the setting Blake has described in this poem. Setting includes several aspects of a work of fiction including the sensuous world of the work, the time in which the action of the work takes place, and the social environment of the character. This would be the manners, customs, and moral values that create an image of the character for the reader. The image we get from reading “The Chimney Sweeper” in Songs of Experience is that of a small lost and abandoned African-American child lying in the snow crying because his parents went to the church to pray for what they want which is not him. This image does not exactly hit the nail on the head, but this poem is in “Songs of Experience” so Blake expects the reader to be experienced enough to have read “Innocence” and understand that when he says “little black thing” he is not referring to Micheal Jordan’s son. And when he talks about “thy father and mother” he is not referring to happily married Dick and Jane, he is talking about how society, “religion, and government share a responsibility in the persecution of children”(DLB 93). But the ironic thing about this is that a reader who does not understand Blake’s intentions can still enjoy this poem. Irony could be defined as a diverse and often complex intellectual phenomenon difficult to be justified in a sentence or two. The intention of irony is to make a precise contrast between appearance and reality. There are many types of irony that Blake uses in his writing including verbal irony. Verbal irony could be most easily understood in the sense that when somebody says the opposite of what they actually want us to believe. For example, in “The Chimney Sweeper” the little boy cries, “because I am happy, and dance and sing”. It is somewhat obvious that Blake’s speaker is being sarcastic because by reading the rest of the poem it is easy to aquire the sense that joy and happiness does not give us a strong vibe. But the vibe to be felt in every poem is the central idea. The central idea, otherwise known as the theme, deals with four general areas of human experience: the nature of humanity, the nature of society, the nature of human-kind’s relationship toward the world, and the nature of our ethical responsibilities. When Blake wrote “The Chimney Sweeper” he was writing it from a socialistic standpoint in that everybody had a particular role in the community. Depending on what family one was born decided what he or she would do for the rest of their lives, no matter what aspirations or dreams they might have. This is the category the speaker of the poem falls into. He is a “Chimney Sweeper”, he was born into that job without a choice, and he says, “They think they have done me no injury”. Who are ‘they’? ‘They’ are the same people who influenced Blake’s writing. ‘They’ are the same people who dictate the society with same “logical structure”(NCLC 13) with which Blake writes this poem. Unlike “The Garden of Love”, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, “London”, and few other poems that Blake wrote most have “explicit counterparts”(DLB 163) in the other volume that are contrary. In “The Songs of Innocence” there is another poem called “The Chimney Sweeper” which is a complete anonym to the poem we have been discussing. It is completely elementary orienated and described as an “exquisite platitude of the world”(NCLC 37). Though the two poems are so different they are both constructed under the same socialistic viewpoints, only one is presentable to immature readers because it has more characterization. Characterization is the author’s presentation and development of characters. To understand the characterization in “The Songs of Experience” one has to be able to understand “The Chimney Sweeper” in “The Songs of Innocence”. The only characterization is that of the little boy and his disapproval on life and his unhappiness. Though the poem is short it would still do the speaker an un-justice to say his character is simple, especially when it is extremely prevalent that Blake’s tone toward his speaker is supportive. Tone is an aspect of point of view that is known as the narrator’s predominant attitude toward the subject, whether that subject is a particular setting, event, or even an idea. It is imperative to notice William Blake’s choice of words when he describes the little boy to understand his tone. He gives the reader somewhat of the impression that maybe he himself was somewhat of a deprived child. Blake does not stand point blank, but it is clear what he implies from the emphasized manifestations that he creates when he talks about the little boy “Crying “ ‘weep,’weep,” in notes of woe!”. Blake was raised with a great biblical upbringing, he once declared that, “all he knew was in the bible”, and that “The Old and New Testaments were the Great Code of Art.” All of the events that William Blake endured in his life had a great influence on his masterful writing and allowed him to perfect the elements of point of view, characterization, setting, tone, irony, and theme.

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