Literary Analysis Of The Tyger By William Blake

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

‘The Tyger’, composed by the 17th century poet William Blake, was a highly symbolic poem that based itself on the personal and religious revelations of man. Moreover, ‘The Tyger’ aimed to incite societal change in a time were British society and way of life was in substantial question due to the recent American and French revolutions. The title, ‘The Tyger’, leads us on to believe that the poem is about a tiger. Rather, I believe the tiger’s place in the poem is as a symbolic representation of evil in the world. When you think tigers you think carnivores, dangerous and would murder you in an instant and I think the poet has capitalized on these characteristics in order to frame the tiger as a symbolic figure rather than a literal one, a sort of poster child for evil.

The subject matter of the poem I believe is the evil the tiger represents and the meaning I derived came in the form of a question of why a supernatural being, most likely the Christian god as Blake was an avid Christian could ever create something as evil as a tiger. Blake uses a number of different stylistic features to convey meaning and his question. In the first stanza we are introduced to the tiger. Representing evil, the tiger is burning bright, burning bright insinuates fire and with fire comes death, danger and fear. I believe the poet is using the symbolic characteristics of fire to further accentuate how evil the tiger is, the imagery of a tiger burning bright further influences readers to ask themselves the question of simply why such evil exists. The entire second stanza exists to erode the reader’s perception of god. The first line, ‘in what deeps or skies’ refers to hell and heaven, by suggesting that god could come from the deeps, this paints him in the likeness of the tiger asking readers, if god had the capacity to create the tiger, what does that then say about his character. The second half of the stanza asks ‘what the hand, dare seize the fire’. This is possibly a reference to Greek mythology and the Titan Prometheus who after creating man grew fond of them and decided to steal the fire from Zeus and give it to man. In this he tricked the gods into leaving the fire unguarded, trickery and deception are very salient traits of humans suggesting that creations, i. e. the tiger are reflective of creators once more questioning the very nature of god.

The third stanza begins with the conjunction ‘and’ suggesting that this stanza is a continuation of the previous verse and thus is also about the character of god. The subsequent lines ‘and what shoulder, and what art’ could also be the poet questioning the tiger about its creation and trying to decipher the character of its creator.

The fourth stanza questions how the tiger came to be, here we see William Blake use a blacksmith as an analogy for creation. We also see the use of an exclamation mark, this alongside the verse’s more rhythmic tone suggests that the poet is getting tired of questioning the tiger evoking emotion to the readers.

The fifth stanza initially could be referencing a sort of conflict, possibly the banishing of Satan from heaven. ‘Did he smile his work to see?’ would be the poet asking whether the creator was pleased with his creation of the tiger. The final line references the lamb, possibly a reference to another one of Blake Williams’s poems called the lamb but I believe this references the bible. The Lamb of God was the name for Jesus Christ. Since the lamb was thought to be pure, the first born lambs were usually sacrificed to atone for sins. In this instance Jesus took on the mantle of the lamb and Blake asking whether god could create Jesus, the very definition of purity only to turn around and make the tiger.

The final stanza repeats the first. ‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night,’. This could be a means for the poet, after having elaborated for four verses on the character of god returning back to the subject of the poem, perhaps in an attempt to stress the topic and leave readers with a lasting impression as repetition often does. The final line however, ‘Dare frame thy fearful symmetry’ is not synonymous with the first stanza, rather the poem starts by asking what higher being could create the tiger, William Blake ends it by asking who dares make the tiger. The final line, ‘thy fearful symmetry’ talks about the symmetry between god and the tiger and how the creation will always reflect the characteristics of the creator.

Finally, the poet conveys emotion through the sort of arc that is told. Initially Blake is asking very ambiguous questions that are open to interpretation. As the poem goes on more questions are asked in each stanza and through rhythmic choices William Blake is able to create a sense of haste, you read ‘tyger tyger, burning bright’ turn into ‘what the hammer, what the chain, in what furnace was thy brain’. William Blake induces a state of haste and anger which is finally reinforced when Blake rather than ask, dares the character of god.

Overall, William Blake has used numerous poetic devices to influence readers and try to instigate spiritual reflection on the characteristics of god, its overall question its conveyed ambiguously and the poem, rather than present an overall message leaves that to the interpretation of the reader, one of the many reasons, alongside its attention to religious morality I decided to choose ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake.


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