Sunday, January 18, 2009

"The Tyger" by William Blake

In William Blake’s “The Tyger” there seem to be many contradictions throughout the poem. One example I will focus on is the way in which he describes how the “tyger” is made. Note that he spelled tiger as tyger in this poem, meaning that the name obviously has an alternate significance than just a tyger. The poem also has a childlike tone at times, and asks many questions which it leaves unanswered.

To start, Blake portrays the “tyger” as a fearsome creature that almost seems to border on revering and demonizing it. In the body of the poem it talks about how it was made with a “hammer”, a “chain”, a “furnace”, and an “anvil”. These things are obvious symbols of industry, and not something that would normally be associated with a natural creature. Combined with the purposeful misspelling of tiger as tyger, tyger could be taken as a symbol for industry itself. The contradiction that is in the poem acts as a highlighter that indicates that this is not about a literal tiger. The tyger is displayed as a fearsome thing, as Blake, the author, likely sees industrialization. To follow all this the poem asks “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” This can be interpreted several ways, but I chose to interpret it to indicate doubt. The Lamb can be seen as a symbol of purity, innocence and simplicity, all the things that his mechanical tyger is not. Earlier it asked “Did he smile his work to see?” In a sense this questions whether God is happy that his creation, man, is making such things as the tyger represents.

On another note, the childlike tone of the poem casts another light on the poem. The whole time it is asking questions that get somewhat repetitive. Even the last stanza is an almost verbatim repetition of the first. It makes it seem like a nursery rhyme, which is supposed to usually convey morals to children, and in an easy to understand manner. In a sense he is saying that even a child can tell the difference between what God has made and what man has made. Even the picture of his tyger looks like a stiff mechanical tiger, and even a child would wonder why it looks so fake. By looking at it in this way “The Tyger” is in essence an anti-industrial message.

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