Essay on Marxism as Found in London, by William Blake

In 1848, Karl Marx became renowned for his work, The Communist Manifesto, which was considered one “of the most eloquent and undoubtedly the most influential political pamphlet ever published…” (Waugh 140). Marxism, as it later became known as, explored “the intellectual rationale of the numerous Communist and Socialist parties” (Waugh 140). The foundation of Marxist views relied on that of class struggle: “Marxist criticism must always insist upon the issue of class relations, and class struggle, in unlikely contexts no less than likely ones” (Waugh 143). Works dealing with Marxism must, then, show the difference in classes, and the struggle and plight that the lower class faces at the hand of the upper class. It was also the Marxist belief that in order to exact social change, the masses would need to come together and cause a social upheaval.Although written prior to what became know as Marxism, William Blake’s poem London exhibits many of the qualities favored by Marxism. The poem, in its sixteen lines, centers on both the political background and the social background of London. Keeping with Marxist beliefs, it exemplifies the differences between the upper class citizens and the poverty stricken lower class. He also attacks the Church and the Palace for contributing to the plights of those on the lowest spectrum of society. Blake starts his poem withI wander thro’ each charter’d street,Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,And mark in every face I meetMarks of weakness, marks of woe.Immediately, Blake has us wandering through the charter’d street, wandering through the charter’d Thames. Here, “charter’d” can mean “founded, privileged, protected by charter” (Oxford English Dictionary). With the us…

…s a result of her prostitution, and this child, so new to the world, will be marked with her misery and misfortune as well. The last line, “and blights with plagues the Marriage hearse,” further shows how this young harlot will pass diseases to the rich men that will use her services, and thus pass the disease to their own wives. Her curse is now passed to everyone – her own child, as well as the rich upper class who does nothing to help her. In the end, it all comes full circle.As is evident, Blake’s London shows many qualities of Marxist work, even before a time where Marxism was considered an actual school of thought. Blake exemplifies the class struggle in London, and how the minority that is in power is oppressing the majority that is the lower class. Blake shines light on the poverty that exists due to the large gap in income between the rich and the poor.

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