"London" by Blake

Essay by Beth KocevarCollege, Undergraduate April 1997

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In the poem 'London', Blake shows that oppression can not be defeated. Weakness and cursing which then leads to death play the dominant roles in the poem. Throughout the poem there are descriptions of woe and misery. Blake uses these to emphasize that poverty and neglect result in confusion, chaos, and turmoil.

Weakness is one of the dilemmas, in which the poor find difficult to overcome. In the first stanza Blake says:

' I wander through each chartered street.

Near where the chartered Thames does flow'

The chartered streets, the mind forged manacles and the repetition of key words all symbolize control over the common man. The chartered streets show that the government is prohibiting them to climb the success ladder. They are placed in poverty and this is just a reminder to them that they will stay.

The common man is also bound by 'mind forged manacles', which manifest themselves in every action.

That the manacles are of the minds is significant, for the mind is the freest part of the individual. The body may be constrained by the environment, by other bodies, by health, or any number of other restraints. The heart, which is to say the emotions , are pulled this way and that by the influence of others. Even the soul, according to predestinists, is limited by the supply or lack of divine grace. Not so the mind; it is the only part of the individual which may truly be said to be free.

Weakness is also illustrated in the repetitions in the first and second stanza:

' I wander through each chartered street,

Near where the chartered Thames does flow,

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe,

In every cry of every man,

In every infant's cry...