Study Guide

Auguries of Innocence Suffering

By William Blake

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This theme is closely related to the first theme, "Injustice," since making people suffer is a pretty common form of injustice. For Blake, suffering didn't come into existence until humanity fell from Eden—which was a higher spiritual state of being (as opposed to, you know a literal garden). After that, humans had to live in the natural world and deal with old age, sickness, and death. But Blake's goal in "Auguries of Innocence" is to show people another way of being that exists above that. He's interested in escaping from the consequences of time—like death and aging and suffering—and re-entering an eternal reality (the same Eden from which humanity fell).

Questions About Suffering

  1. What is the purpose of suffering in Blake's eyes? Is it an important and potentially meaningful part of life?
  2. Does Blake have a solution to suffering? If so, what? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?
  3. Does Blake think animal suffering is as bad as human suffering? Or does he give humans priority? How can you tell?
  4. Does Blake think that God suffers along with humanity? If so, does that help to justify or explain suffering? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?

Chew on This

Turn that pained grimace upside-down. Suffering is helpful because it spurs us into thinking and considering our condition.

Nah, no silver linings here—keep moving. Suffering is useless and we'd be better off without it.

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