Theme and message

The main theme of the poem “London” by William Blake is contrast; between freedom and restriction, between death and life and between innocence and degradation. Consequently, important motifs in the text are death, disease and children.

Freedom versus restrictions

While the speaker is free to “wander” (p. 214, l. 1) the streets of London, its inhabitants are captives in a miserable, degrading life:

“And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.”
(p. 214, ll. 3-4)

Notice that even the children in the poem are as powerless as the adults, limited by fear and life in poverty:

“In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,”
(p. 214, ll. 6-7)

Life versus Death

While the chimney-sweepers are symbols of death - understood as something bla...

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