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Explore How Themes Develop in 'London'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate how key themes develop in 'London'. Students will be able to look at how consistent key themes are in the poem, how they change and why.

'Explore How Themes Develop in 'London'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'London', Time and Place: 'London'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Want to revise how key themes develop in 'London?

 

 

Thought bubble

 

 

This activity will help you understand how Blake's language choice and tone develop these key themes in the poem. In other words, what is the effect of these key themes on the reader? What exactly is Blake trying to show about these key themes? First, let's identity the main themes in the poem.

 

Corruption

Confinement

Freedom

Innocence

Hopelessness

Death

Religion

Vulnerability

 

This activity is designed so that you not only identify these key themes and ideas in the poem according to the language Blake uses, but explore how these themes develop in the poem. So how does Blake develop one of these themes in his poem?

 

 

 

 

Here's an example of an evaluation on the theme of corruption:

 

Blake uses the theme of corruption in "every black'ning church" where the metaphorical imagery of "black'ning" portrays a vivid image of a church- usually considered pure and positive- becoming blacker and blacker. The adjective and verb "black'ning" really conveys the unfurling impurity, as if the church is so corrupt, it's blackness can be seen buy all, adding sensory depth to the metaphor. Blake is saying that institutions such as the church are corrupt because they do not take responsibility for vulnerable members of society. The impure and corrupt imagery adds depth to the overall meaning of the poem, producing a vivid image which connotes to bleakness, darkness and death.

 

 

If you want to make this activity more of a revision exercise, then jot these themes down. If you want to use this activity to test yourself, then go ahead and try to memorise these key themes/motifs. 

 

It's up to you how you want to use this activity!

 

Remember, it's not a race. So take your time with each step! You'll be fine.

Let's begin with the theme/motif of hopelessness.

 

How does Blake present the idea of hopelessness in the quote: "and the hapless soldier's sigh"? 

 

(Hapless means unfortunate/helpless).

 

The quote presents the soldiers as failures

The quote presents the soldiers as failed by their government, hence they're 'sighing' in surrender

The quote presents the soldiers lack of performance

Looking at death

 

Pick two quotes which show this theme.

"In every infant's cry of fear"

"And the hapless soldier's sigh"

"Runs in blood down Palace walls"

"And blights with plagues the marriage hearse"

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either "confinement" or "death".

Looking at the theme/motif of religion?

 

 

Which quote best shows the theme of religion? 

 

"Every black'ning church appalls"

"How the chimney-sweeper's cry"

"And mark in every face I meet"

"In every voice, in every ban"

Looking at the theme/motif of corruption.

 

How does Blake present this theme?

 

Write the number of the most detailed answer. Only one is correct.

 

1. Blake only presents the theme of corruption at the end of the poem.

2. Blake presents government/church institutions as corrupt, and as causing the misfortunes and suffering of the poor people.

3. Blake presents the poor people of London as corrupt and responsible for their own misfortunes and suffering.

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

 

"Near where the chartered Thames does flow"

 

Tick one theme this quote shows.

 

Love

Hope

Confinement

Death

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of vulnerability?

 

"In every infant's cry of fear"

"Every black'ning church appalls"

"But most through midnight streets I hear"

"And blights with plagues the marriage hearse"

Let's link how religion and death are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box if you think the quote shows either theme. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 

Hint: look at ideas/language devices which could be used to represent death i.e: metaphors, adjectives.

 ReligionDeath
"Every black'ning church appalls"
"And blights with plagues the marriage hearse"
"Runs in blood down palace walls"

Looking at the theme/motif of hopelessness

 

Pick the one answer that you think best shows how Blake reflects this theme in his poem.

 

Blake shows us that the rich are hopeless

Blake shows us that hopelessness is something which every human being feels, no matter their class

Blake shows us that hopelessness is a theme which is exclusive to the lower-class, as they have been let down by a corrupt government

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

What one theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

Confinement

Religion

Sex

  • Question 1

Let's begin with the theme/motif of hopelessness.

 

How does Blake present the idea of hopelessness in the quote: "and the hapless soldier's sigh"? 

 

(Hapless means unfortunate/helpless).

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote presents the soldiers as failed by their government, hence they're 'sighing' in surrender
EDDIE SAYS
This quote really emphasises the idea of hopelessness, mainly due to the verb "sigh". Sighing is an indication of giving up and giving in- both adding to the theme of hopelessness, as if the soldiers know nothing will be sorted. Think about why Blake may have used a present-tense verb. Does it give an impression of continuity, as if things have not changed?
  • Question 2

Looking at death

 

Pick two quotes which show this theme.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Runs in blood down Palace walls"
"And blights with plagues the marriage hearse"
EDDIE SAYS
Death is a big theme in the poem- a very apparent theme due to the era it was written in (1790s- when hygiene was at its worst!). The last two quotes both depict the theme, using imagery and nouns to create a semantic field of death ("blood", "hearse", "plague"). Blake is essentially trying to warn us of the negative effects of corruption on those in poverty. Death is the result of capitalist organisations exploiting the more vulnerable members of public. The church partakes in child labour, whilst the government sit comfortably as soldiers sacrifice their lives for the country.
  • Question 3

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either "confinement" or "death".

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Look at the final two stanzas- it seems to be that the theme of confinement is apparent in the earlier quotes, however, the stanza ends with the theme of death ("runs in blood..." and "and blights with plagues..."). So, Blake is structuring his poem so that confinement leads to death! Cheerful.
  • Question 4

Looking at the theme/motif of religion?

 

 

Which quote best shows the theme of religion? 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Every black'ning church appalls"
EDDIE SAYS
In picking out the presentation of certain themes, we have to make sure we can infer- that is, we need to read between the lines. Look at the language used and the tone established. Blake very obviously describes his disgust of the capitalist actions of the church, and so we can see his negative view of religion.
  • Question 5

Looking at the theme/motif of corruption.

 

How does Blake present this theme?

 

Write the number of the most detailed answer. Only one is correct.

 

1. Blake only presents the theme of corruption at the end of the poem.

2. Blake presents government/church institutions as corrupt, and as causing the misfortunes and suffering of the poor people.

3. Blake presents the poor people of London as corrupt and responsible for their own misfortunes and suffering.

CORRECT ANSWER
2
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you went with option two! The theme of corruption is evident throughout the whole poem. There isn't much of a radical increase of the theme as the poem goes on (however, consider whether the theme of death is referred to more as the poem gets closer to the end). Government corruption seems to be the cause of poverty (and therefore death). So Blake seems to be pointing fingers at the rich people who are likely to read the poem. While he does this, he's bringing awareness to the impoverished (poor) conditions of the London poor.
  • Question 6

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

 

"Near where the chartered Thames does flow"

 

Tick one theme this quote shows.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Confinement
EDDIE SAYS
The "chartered" Thames is still free to "flow". Chartered implies government control. Contrast this with the word flow, which implies freedom and the natural course that water takes. Blake is, perhaps, making a point about how we human beings should be able to naturally flow and move. Confinement is unnatural and cruel.
  • Question 7

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of vulnerability?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"In every infant's cry of fear"
EDDIE SAYS
You could potentially choose any of these quotes, if you analysed it well enough and linked it to the rest of the poem, but, overall, the first quote showcases real vulnerability- the infant crying upon being born. Only we, the reader, are made aware that the baby doesn't have a hope of a good life. Technically, the poem showcases that everyone is vulnerable- age doesn't seem to matter much. It seems that, no matter how old, 'every man' is cursed, as long as they are lower-class.
  • Question 8

Let's link how religion and death are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box if you think the quote shows either theme. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 

Hint: look at ideas/language devices which could be used to represent death i.e: metaphors, adjectives.

CORRECT ANSWER
 ReligionDeath
"Every black'ning church appalls"
"And blights with plagues the marriage hearse"
"Runs in blood down palace walls"
EDDIE SAYS
Is this getting easier? Religion and death work well together, as many of the quotes in the poem consist of both ideas. If you're a little confused about the middle quote- don't worry! Death is explicit in the reference to "plagues", but, the imagery of religion is a little more implicit. The religious imagery in "blights" and "plagues", not to mention the corruption of the sanctity of marriage through the implication of sex outside marriage (with the word plagues implying sexual transmitted diseases passed on from and to prostitutes), really shows religious disapproval.
  • Question 9

Looking at the theme/motif of hopelessness

 

Pick the one answer that you think best shows how Blake reflects this theme in his poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Blake shows us that hopelessness is a theme which is exclusive to the lower-class, as they have been let down by a corrupt government
EDDIE SAYS
Blake shows that hopelessness is passed down, generation to generation- the government has failed the lower-classes.
  • Question 10

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

What one theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Confinement
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of confinement is huge in the poem. Blake uses many language techniques (metaphors, emotive language etc.) which emphasise the theme of confinement! It's a cyclical theme, which means it crops up over and over. Each new child who's born in these awful, poor conditions is subject to being confined and trapped by the government. If you believe that another theme is more apparent, that's totally okay! Remember- quotes always are needed to justify why.
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