The Little Black Boy

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Furthermore Blake builds the poem on clear imagery of light and dark. Line 1 reads ‘And I am black, but O! my soul is white'. The contrast of this in the first stanza between the child's black skin and his belief in the whiteness of the soul lends poignancy to his particular problem of self-understanding. The body and soul, black and white, and earth and heaven are all aligned in a rhetorical gesture that basically confirms the stance of Christian doctrine: the theology of the poem is one that counsels forbearance in the present and promises a recompense for suffering in the hereafter. In a culture in which black and white connote bad and good, respectively, the child's developing sense of self requires him to perform some fairly symbolic gymnastics with these images of color. Blake's eye perceived what the poet understood as the spiritual realties that underlie the world of common experience. As guiding figure The Little Black Boy's mother symbolizes a natural and selfless love that becomes the poem's ideal, a spiritual symbol to a hard life but one with God. She shows a tender concern for her child's self-esteem, as well as a strong desire that he know the comfort of God. She persuades him, according to the conventional Christian doctrine, that earthly life is but a preparation for the rewards in heaven. The theme of this poem evokes the author's concern for the spiritual progress of mankind. In conclusion Blake's intention, which in the eighteenth century, literary works were considered to be products of conscious intention, is to show the boy transcend the realties of oppression and racism, and internalize his mother's lesson and apply it in his relations with the outer world. His suffering can be a source of pride rather than shame. The theology of the poem is one that counsels forbearance in the present and promises a recompense for suffering thereafter.
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