Douglass and Blake: Voices of the Mute

Topics: Slavery in the United States, Frederick Douglass, Abolitionism Pages: 6 (1995 words) Published: December 18, 2013
Douglass and Blake - Voices of the Mute
Tolerance of inhumane actions has occurred throughout the entire history of the world. From one place to the next, there has always been a single person or a group of persons that will claim dominance over another - this is simply how institutions such as government and social classes are formed. In some cases, there is little argument and much agreement and diplomacy between those who are in charge and those who are under dominance of the more powerful, as seen throughout both India’s and China’s histories with rigid caste systems and tightly stratified social classes. This is due to the ideals of the people in those places, as much of their dependence is upon things such as order and the spiritual understanding of where one’s life fits in among the others around them. However, it is often a more prevalent and common route to see that those who are under dominance are not able to live life as they please despite their status, but are instead held under an oppressive force that disables them from seeing life as anything but disappointing and burdensome. In cases such as the latter, some people take the initiative to speak out in hopes that they will increase the chances of bringing joy and a feeling of value to the people whom they defend. These people sometimes go on to become heroes among the underprivileged “rabble” and can make a difference for themselves and for later generations to come.

In keeping with this tradition of stepping outside the social norm and speaking in defense of the people despite oppression and opposition, Frederick Douglass and William Blake were two heroes of two very different, but highly oppressed people groups. Frederick Douglass was once a slave who had to endure a life of extreme disappointment in humanity as a whole. When he became a freed man, he wrote a narrative of his experiences from childhood to adult age entitled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an autobiography that served to open the eyes of not only America, but also of nations such as England which were also engaged heavily in the buying, selling, trading, and mistreating of human beings. He later went on to become a great orator and a politician who defended the rights of African Americans. William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker in the nineteenth century and, although he himself did not face much oppression directly, he noticed it preying upon the people in poorer social classes - particularly children from poor families. In his poem “The Tyger”, Blake uses elements such as imagery, tone, and allusion to show his belief that the poor in England were being treated inhumanely. Both Douglass and Blake, despite any and all opposition, believed that it was their responsibility to speak out for the oppressed no matter the cost and they did so through their literary works.

Blake wrote two collections of poems during the time of the Industrial Revolution in Europe which he entitled Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Songs of Experience seems, in a sense, like the evil twin to Songs of Experience. This is due to the fact that in Experience, Blake’s poems are indicative of a lack of innocence and an increase in corruption due to the constant growing of an overpowering darkness. He uses imagery and symbolism to capture the essence of just how evil the world is and how corrupt his society was in the sense that young children were being forced to work long hours and many died due to the intensity of the work they had to perform on a daily basis, often with meager meals and hardly any rest. His poem, “The Tyger” uses the imagery of a tiger in comparison to that of a lamb. The Tiger represents experience itself through the means of the Industrial Revolution and severe child labor enforcement. Blake contrasts the beauty and dreadfulness of the Tiger in the line that reads, “What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”...

Cited: "Frederick Douglass by an Unidentified Artist." CivilWar@Smithsonian. Web. 14 Dec. 2010. http://www.civilwar.si.edu/slavery_douglass1.html
Gleckner, Robert F. ""The Lamb" and "The Tyger"--How Far with Blake?" The English Journal 51.8 (1962): 536-43. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.
Goldstein, Leslie F. "Racial Loyalty in America: The Example of Frederick Douglass." The Western Political Quarterly 28.3 (1985): 463-76. 2000. Web. 14 Dec. 2010.
Kohn, Margaret. "Frederick Douglass 's Master-Slave Dialectic." The Journal of Politics 67.2 (2005): 497-514. 2005. Web. 14 Dec. 2010.
Parsons, Coleman O. "Tygers Before Blake." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 8.4 (1988): 573-92. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.
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