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A Symbolic Analysis of William Blake’s London

………In his reflection “London,” William Blake laments the povertyfaced by the lower class of modern, industrialized London, and he canfind no note of consolation or hope for their future. The poet usesthis theme to dramatically depict the conditions in which theoppressed lower class is forced to live; he develops the theme throughthe use of sounds, symbolism, and an ironic twist of words in the lastline that expresses Blake’s ultimate belief in the hopelessness of thesituation. The poem is dominated by a rigid iambic meter that mirrorsthe rigidity and immutability of the lives of the poor and theoppressive class system.

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………The first stanza begins with the poet describing himselfwalking through the “charter’d” streets of the city near the”charter’d” Thames-every aspect of the city has been sanctioned andorganized by the ruling class-seeing expressions of weakness and woeon the faces of all the people he meets. The streets and the rivermake up a network that has been laid out and chartered by the wealthyclass to control the poor. The poet walks among the poor,participating in the drudgery of their daily lives; he feels theirmisery as they endlessly struggle to survive as pawns of the classsystem.

………In the second stanza Blake describes how in every voice ofevery person he perceives their “mind-forg’d manacles.” The people aretrapped, prisoners of the rigid class system that has been “forged” inthe minds of the elite class, whose members have taken measures toprevent their wealth from ever reaching the poverty-stricken rabble.This and all later stanzas focuses on the sounds that Blake hears,particularly the cries of…

…day where the poor are treated in much the sameway as the people of London two hundred years ago. It is not asmall-scale phenomenon-hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken peoplecontinue to struggle through the trials of daily survival, and theirsuffering weighs heavily on our consciences. The high standard ofliving we enjoy in the United States is a result of the fact that we,along with other powerful industrialized and developed nations,control most of the wealth and markets of the world. The United Statesalone controls 25% of the world’s wealth with only 6% of itspopulation. Every extra dollar we spend on ourselves to further raiseour standard of living helps perpetuate the world’s current economicsystem that, like the class system of England two hundred years ago,offers little hope of a better life to the great majority of sufferingpoor.

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