An Analysis of William Blake’s Poem “London” Essay

In “London”, William Blake brings to light a city overrun by poverty and hardship. Blake discards the common, glorifying view of London and replaces it with his idea of truth. London is nothing more but a city strapped by harsh economic times where Royalty and other venues of power have allowed morality and goodness to deteriorate so that suffering and poverty are all that exist. It is with the use of three distinct metaphors; “mind-forg’d manacles”, “blackning Church”, and “Marriage hearse”, that Blake conveys the idea of a city that suffers from physical and psychological imprisonment, social oppression, and an unraveling moral society.

According to William Richey the phrase “mind-forg’d manacles” has two contributors, the oppressors and the victims (1). Both contributors help set and reinforce the psychological distress and sense of entrapment each citizen of “London” suffers from. The oppressors are presented as disease, Royalty, the Church, and the state of London. The victims are presented as soldiers, harlots, infants, and older children (Richey 1).

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The location of the poem contributes greatly to each citizen’s frame of mind because surroundings influence how people react in their environment. “London” is described as confined, creating the illusion that the citizens are trapped in their misery. “I wander thro’ each charter’d street, / Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,…” During Blake’s time, the word “charter’d” carried the denotative definition of restriction and confinement creating an image of a city that only allows limited movement and freedom. The repetition of the word “charter’d” emphasizes how cramped the city is. Even a river, a part of nature known to be free, is kept imprisoned and res…

…tes the idea of social oppression because of the different connotative meanings the word “blackning” implies. Most powerful is the argument that the Church blackens and defames the idea of faith and goodness to promote the continuation of child labor, poverty, and suffering. Walter Minot brings to light the numerous interpretations of the phrase “Marriage hearse” and how they contribute to the idea of an unraveling society. Each denotation of hearse helped create the picture of an unraveling society where promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases brought about the end of marriage, a very powerful form of faith and rebirth. In conclusion, the metaphors employed by Blake create and reinforce the image of a city that was not full of life and happiness but a city stricken by social oppression, psychological and physical imprisonment, and an unraveling moral society.


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