The Angel - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Dream - Blake uses the image of dreaming to allow access to feelings and experiences unavailable to the waking mind. Dreams, therefore, allow unacknowledged desires or states to be revealed. This is so for the Angelspeaker in this poem.

Angel - Blake said that angels were holy because they did not expect holiness from others. In this poem, then, the angel represents a selfless love which does not bind another to its own expectations and demands.

Queen - The image of the queen suggests a figure with power and authority, a figure expected to exercise control. Thus, the queen defends her ‘realm' by military means. That she is a maiden / virgin suggests her greatest control is of her virginity. If she is to accept love, the queen may be much in need of an ‘angel' but also less able to respond to one.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • What other connotations does ‘angel' have?
  • Which of these do you think are helpful in understanding this poem?


The effects of ‘fallenness' on repression of sexuality and other emotions

Blake believed that inhibitions lie primarily within the mind, rather than in external factors. Society makes its fears, guilt and shame into rules and laws which are then enshrined in social institutions such as the authority of parents, the Church and the State or Monarchy. What should be life-giving becomes destructive or wasteful of life, as we find in this poem. In a society which stipulated the protection of female virginity at all costs, Blake highlights the arid results.

The effects of the Fall

A second, related theme is the effect on human relationships of fallen divided selfhood which sees itself at the centre of its world as something to be protected and defended. Its pleasures must be jealously defended and denied to others. One chief pleasure is exerting control over others under the guise of another emotion – here, distress.

Investigating Themes

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