1 January 2013
AP Literature and Composition
Poison Tree- Explained
Anger is like a ticking time bomb. Its suspense keeps growing and growing until the point of destruction. Much like a ticking time bomb, William Blake conveys the building anger towards an enemy in the poem “Poison Tree”. In the poem the speaker is afraid to tell his friend he is angry with him. His friend eventually turns into an enemy. When the speaker shields his true feelings his anger grows to the point that it becomes destructive. Blake uses unique structure, symbolism, and imagery to convey that when shielded with dishonesty anger becomes dangerous. Stanza structure, rhyming couplets, and meter—these literary techniques define the poem “Poison Tree.” The poem is arranged into three four line stanzas. Each stanza conveys three stages of growing anger; planting of the seed of anger, the growth of anger and the destructive force anger brings. This is significant because we are able to see the transition of anger from a minor discomfort to a destructive force. The poems rhyming couplets allow the reader to easily interpret the poems vengeful tone in simple informal diction. This allows the reader to easily understand the simple plot. Also the rhyming scheme allows for each line to have two different meanings; direct meaning or metaphor. One example in the poem is “And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears;” which can be interpreted directly as emotional feelings or metaphorically as nurturing the growth of anger. By doing so Blake is able to wrap in complex ideas in the simple rhyme in order to add observations of human nature. The simple rhymes allow the reader to see the buildup and result that shielded anger brings. Blake also uses iambic tetrameter and trochaic trimester. A trochee is an opposite of an iamb. The speaker fluctuates between each meter depending on who he is talking about. When the speaker discusses his enemy the trochaic tetrameter provides an extra beat at the end of the line. This is important because when we read the poem it provides us a subtle disturbance that shows us to envision the speaker’s unresolved anger. Symbolism is used throughout the poem to express how everything in the poem is relatable. Day and Night are used to describe that the speaker’s anger is continuously growing. Blake uses words like: night had veiled the pole, and words like “sunning” and “day and night.” Blake shows the wrath of being dishonest is slowly taking over our lives all of the time. Another symbol, the poison apple tree, is used to symbolize how anger develops from a simple internal feeling into a major destructive action. In the beginning the speaker was his enemies’ friend. His anger from concealing the truth was constantly nurturing his destructive force. When the anger matures it turns it into a destructive force that when is unchecked, is deadly. Sadness, anger, and other negative feelings towards the enemy become the live-giving qualities that allow the anger to grow. Anger is not a real plant so it is watered with emotions like fears and tears so metaphorically it is cultivating anger. Another symbol is the enemy. Blake uses the “foe” to show how the speaker fell victim to the speaker’s anger apple. As the reader, even though the speaker feels satisfied to relinquish his foe, it is perplexing because of how senseless this act of danger was to the enemy. It makes it seem more practical to tell the truth to a friend before a relationship becomes ugly. Symbols provided the intricate story of the poem unique meanings that help exemplify the true growth of anger.
Through the use of imagery, unique structure, and symbolism, it makes the point that when anger is concealed from a foe it grows into severe consequences. Jealousy, vengeance, and conspiracy are all severe consequences that the foe may face if anger is allowed to grow, and grow. Blake wants to encourage the reader to always be honest and open about their feelings with other people. Otherwise a simple misunderstanding can turn into a destructive wrath of anger.