English Lit Place Cluster: London

Notes on William Blake's "London".

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  • Created by: Emma Jay
  • Created on: 25-05-12 11:07
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London ­ William Blake
About:
The appalling conditions for the working class in London
The widespread nature of their suffering
Criticism of church and government
Historical/Social Context:
Critical of ownership laws i.e. "chartered Thames"
Every aspect in life is privately owned
Blake alludes to the revolution in London, arguably suggesting that the experience of living
there could encourage a revolution on the streets of the capital
Dangerous industrial conditions, child labour, prostitution and poverty are just some of the
topics Blake explores
Blake lived and worked in the capital, so was arguably well placed to write clearly about the
conditions people who lived there faced.
Imagery:
The soot on the church ("black'ning church") makes a mockery of the Christian lifestyle as
they have failed to help those in need
"Mind-forged manacles" ­ connotations to slavery and entrapment
"Runs in blood down palace walls" ­Has connotations to danger; foreshadows a rebellion
against the government; links to French Revolution
Techniques:
Anaphora and Alliteration ­ "marks of weakness, marks of woe". Emphasis on extent of
suffering
Repetition of "every" in 2nd stanza ­Emphasis on widespread nature of suffering; affecting
everybody
Metaphor ­"runs in blood down palace walls". Suggests possible revolution in the near
future. Symbolic of the French Revolution, forebodes that a similar thing might happen in
London
Juxtaposition ­"marriage hearse". Compares notion of happiness to that of the suffering of
London; sinister.
Contrast ­"chartered street...chartered Thames". River and streets are places of freedom
that everyone can use. Contrasts idea of private ownership with right to freedom.
Semantic field ­negativity. Lots of words such as "hearse", "weakness" and "black'ning"

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Personal Response:
I find the phrase "marriage hearse" very effective as Blake juxtaposes the concept of joy and
happiness with death, the ultimate suffering that every person must endure.
By contrasting "marriage" with "hearse", he highlights the unhappiness in London and makes
me feel scared of the possible outcome of the situation described in the poem. Here, Blake
sounds prophetic, which creates a sinister atmosphere.…read more

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