Blake and the “Universal Man”
In his poem “The Little Black Boy” from “Songs of Innocence,” William Blake exposes his white Christian audience to an innocent little black boy who narrates his own story. The little boy, sitting under a tree in his mother’s lap, learns a valuable lesson about color and God. This poem was written as the abolitionist movement was recently becoming known. Blake and other writers participated to advance the cause of this movement by exposing the white Christian audience to the message of change. Transcending color, the spiritual and divine love seems to be the overall theme of the poem, however, a deep examination of the poem reveals the quintessential theme. Seeking to move his readers and convince them to share his unique vision of the world, Blake successfully invokes the innocence of the little black boy in order to advance not only the message of change but more importantly to lay his argument for the "Universal Man." As a challenger to the religious and political authority and an fervent supporter of the American and French revolution, Blake‘s poem "The Little Black Boy" addresses the metaphysical question of the divine and what he calls the "Universal Man" from the perspective of the state of innocence of the human soul. In a way, Blake is giving justice to the black race by empowering the little black boy and giving him a voice to tell his story. The poet chose the little black boy to be the speaker in this poem that addresses the question of color because kids are innocent and Blake wants to tackle this complex issue through innocence. The black boy starts the poem by introducing himself: "My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I'm black, but O! my soul is white" (line 1,2.) Right away mature readers find themselves face to face with the innocence of the little black boy who came to know that his blackness is perceived negatively and he cries out, "but O! my soul is white" to prove to the white audience that his soul...
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