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The Symbolism and Themes in William Blake’s “Little Boy Lost”

May 20, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 20, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Little Boy Lost is another poem by William Blake. The poem does not give any information about its background setting; it creates a mist of suspense. The poem is about a boy who gets lost in the woods, thinking he is following his father. A small boy follows a will-o-the-wisp, mistaking it for his father. He found himself alone and frightened in a deep mire of confusion. In the first stanza, the boy pleads with the Father asking him to speak to him and to walk slowly or else he will lose his way (Martin 5). The boy gets lost in the second stanza; he finds himself alone and cold. He cries, but his father is nowhere to help him.


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The poem describes the world’s experiences and the cruelty children are born with. Parents should guide their children so they don’t get lost. In the poem, however, the father is all quiet when the boy asks him to speak to him. The father is ignorant and arrogant and turns his back on the boy and walks too fast for the boy to keep up with the pace. The father is not sympathetic. A father is expected to be a guardian angel to the child and walk side by side with the child until he can walk alone. In the poem, the father does the exact opposite.

The line in the poem, ‘The night was dark, no father was there,’ is symbolic. The night is always dark; therefore, this line is not referring to the night but the world. Father in the poem is an illusion for guidance, the child in the poem is wished for guidance, or otherwise, he will be lost. The boy is calling for a guide to choose the right path. The child, however, realizes in the second stanza that there is no father, and he becomes wet with dew. The word dew is a symbol of materialist pleasure. The last sentence, ‘And away the vapor disappears.’ Vapor is also symbolic. The child is lost since there is no father to guide him; he gets lost in worldly pleasure and darkness. The vapor is the little righteousness that the child had; the vapor dies away at the end of it all. The poem’s message towards the end, when the child is aware of the predicament that he is in but has no father to help him, he is left in the wilderness of the world to figure himself out.

In addition to the themes of guidance and illusion, “Little Boy Lost” also touches on innocence. The child in the poem is described as small and innocent, and his naive trust in the will-o-the-wisp as a representation of his father suggests a lack of worldly experience and understanding. The child’s innocence is further emphasized by his vulnerability and helplessness when he becomes lost and unable to find his way. This innocence is ultimately shattered by the harsh realities of the world and the absence of guidance and protection from a father figure. The poem suggests that innocence is fragile and can easily be lost in the face of overwhelming obstacles and challenges.

Another aspect of “Little Boy Lost” worth considering is the role of the natural world in the poem. The woods where the child becomes lost can be seen as a metaphor for the larger world, full of danger and uncertainty. The will-o-the-wisp, a phenomenon often associated with deception and misdirection, further adds to confusion and peril. The child’s reliance on the natural world for guidance and protection, as represented by the will-o-the-wisp, ultimately leads to his downfall. This serves as a warning about the dangers of blindly trusting in external forces and the importance of developing one’s own internal compass to navigate the world’s complexities.

Work Cited.

Martin, William. “The Unspoken Voice in William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.” International Journal of Language and Literature: 2013

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