William Innocence and of Experience” challenged the oppression

William Blake wrote poems that challenged societal norms. The poems he wrote portrayed innocence and oppression during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700’s. With Blake being a Radical, he spoke of problems with the law and with the social issues that existed within society that required a transformation of political systems. Blake’s poems in “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” challenged the oppression of church, God and government because he thought they could do more to end the poverty and the social injustices that plagued the society during the Revolution. In Blake’s poem “London” he opens up with the observations he makes while wandering through the streets of London. Blake uses “London” as a symbol to represent the corruption and inequality of London in the midst of the Revolution. The “charter’d streets” that keep society tied within city limits. These streets lead to misery and pain for the people who walk them daily. Blake’s charged use of “charter’d” is a distinct critic of early Capitalism that was arising in London at the time. He sees “Marks of weakness marks of woe” in the faces of the people he passes. These marks are the weak, unhappy and poor citizens of London. The state of the people in London is a reflection on how weak the government is. The “marks” that scar the faces of society mirror the  “marks” that enslave the city. This is Blake’s attempt to reform society and challenge oppression. Blake challenges this oppression by heightening the repetition of words like “every” and “cry’. It is repeated to emphasize the widespread misery of London. The people of London are in such a repressed state that nobody is excluded. The cries of “every infant” and “every man” can be heard throughout the streets. Blake uses this repetition to enhance the idea of constant conformity. Blake challenges oppression in “London” by perpetuating the human condition through the fear and cries of society. The people of London cry out “in every voice, in every ban” because they are tied down with these “mind-forged manacles”. Therefore, these manacles are a metaphor for shackles. These shackles are not physical, but mental and they have everyone chained liked prisoners. Prisoners that convey oppression and unimaginative thought. The people of London are detached from the human spirit and Blake sees this as a problem. William Blake saw human imagination and human understanding and one unit, therefore, saying that the people of London were enslaved in empty thought is Blake challenging the oppression of the government. His comparison brings about change in human thought, but the people of London cannot break free of the chains because they are forced into these binds of conformity. During the Revolution, the government attacked society in fear that someone would break the status quo. Therefore, these mental  “manacles” that are “mind-forged” are even more powerful than physical one, which shows how truly oppressed the society of London was to its tyrannical government. Blake favored human spirit. He believed that there was an energy in human imagination that had to be exposed. He believed that man and nature collided to create the true human spirit and that social and intellectual restrictions held back this human experience. The “mind-forged manacles” represent Blake challenging oppression because they are a symbol for the self-limitation and deprivation of the human imagination. Moreover, in the third Stanza of “London” Blake challenges the oppression of the Church. The “manacles” extend into the next stanza because Blake believes that they are also exerted from the organized Church. While preaching an ending in paradise for all who conform, Blake argued that it was a place to suppress the people of London. It was also a place to exploit child labor. During the Revolution the Church employed children as young as four as chimney-sweeps and “how the chimney-sweeper’s cry” in misery and pain. The children often died young because they became sick from the soot or the priests would deprive them of food. Blake challenges the Church and demonstrates it with the line, “every blackening church appals”. Blake is using the blackening of the Church both figuratively and literally. The Church’s chimneys becomes sooty literally, but also figuratively because the entire Church is covered in the black soot of all the children’s labor. Blake uses the  “blackness” of the Church to create an image of sin and death. He exposes and challenges the Church by using saying the Church has “sinned” and is responsible for all the “deaths” of the young children that were forced into child labor. Blake finds the Church guilty of industrialization and that it has lead to the Church turning a pall color and palls are associated with funerals, therefore, this is another attempt from Blake to connect the Church with the maltreatment of children and the Church’s corruption of God. He also challenges the mistreatment of Soldiers by the Church. The “hapless” soldiers that are sent off to war die for an uncaring and selfish government and Blakes wants this to be known. That these soldiers die for a government who takes their bravery for granted and it stains the royal walls with blood. Blake supported the uprising against the government, but he believed the soldiers who died only died to have their blood smeared all over palace walls as a reminder of the cruel misfortunes they endeavored to defend the Monarchy. Blake is challenging oppression by saying that the government is responsible for this mistreatment of children and soldiers and that their hands are stained with the imagery of blood and soot. The final stanza of “London” implies that the most heard sound on the streets is the cursing of a “youthful harlot”. A young mother who is a prostitute on the streets of London during the midnight hours. She is cursing her crying newborn baby who she birthed unwillingly. Forced into sex and venereal disease, the harlot is seen as a shameless and provocative woman whom’s fate is tainted in darkness. These prostitutes are forced to have sex with these men who carry diseases and transmit them to their wives and unborn child. The harlots alienation from the Church and from society is signified in the last Line of London. Blake is challenging oppression and marking London as a morally decaying city. Blake has neglected to leave out family in “London”, therefore, allowing his oppression to come full circle. Blake’s last line paints a powerful image of the “harlot’s curse” that “blights with plagues the marriage hearse”. The use of “marriage hearse” together suggests that Blake felt negatively about marriage because it was done for religious reasons and was only for the privileged, not for “harlots”, therefore once again proving the government was alienating the common people during the Revolution. Blake’s use of an oxymoron for “marriage hearse” is him challenging the infiltration of traditional marriage values, especially the ones ruled by the Church. Blake is also challenging the moral humiliation of the harlot in the final stanza, by saying that the Church and state banned human nature and human spirit from the socially and economically inhibited. William Blake also challenges oppression in Songs of Innocence and of Experience in the poem “The Garden of Love” The poem opens up with lines of joy and happiness. The words “Garden” and “Love” infers that at a time this was a wonderful place to be. This garden is very special to the speaker. It is infered in line four that the speaker came here during his youth and “used to play on the green”, but he has since now grown older and sees the garden through experience, rather through innocence. Blake uses “green” as a metaphor. The color green which is associated with fertility, growth, and freedom for children has now been replaced with shame and repression because of the religious system. The values that used to represent the “green” now represent values that are permitted by the Church. Blake’s clear opposition to the repression of desires that the Church insists must be followed means that Blake sees the Church as a prison. In the second stanza the speaker finds “the gates of this Chapel” shut. At one point people could enter and exit the garden freely, but now it is impossible to enjoy freedom without permission from the Church. Blake is challenging oppression in these lines by calling the Church a prison and this matters because nobody was free to live through there human spirit, instead it was controlled by the Church. These closed “gates” are a metaphor for the Church denying the sexual and pleasurable desires of society now, in hopes for bliss in the future. Blake felt that doing this led to the failure of human fulfillment. In comparison, ‘Thou shalt not’ written over the door is another implication that organized religion is purposely forbidding people from enjoying personal pleasures.