The Fly - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Fly - Flies live for a very short time. They are easily killed. Consequently they are frequently used as a image of the transient and ephemeral nature of life.

Blake may be alluding to the well known, bleak assessment of the human condition by the Duke of Gloucester in King Lear:

‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport.' (Act 4 Sc i: 38-9)

Dance … sing – The apparent gaiety of these words is undercut by their sobering echo in The Chimney Sweeper (E), as well as the biblical warning familiar to Blake's contemporaries about the foolishness of revelry when ‘tomorrow you may die' Isaiah 22:13.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • What are the immediate connotations of a fly in your mind?


The nature of the world and its creator; the nature of humanity

The speaker sees him/herself as being as totally insignificant to, and as totally subject to, some blind force in the world, just as the fly is to human beings. If a blind force is responsible for the world then the human being is of no more significance and value than a fly. It is only consoling to believe that human beings are like their creator if we assume that this creator is benevolent and well-disposed to his creation.

Investigating themes

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