William Blake's A Poison Tree

2139 Words 9 Pages
“A Poison Tree” by William Blake is ostensibly dealing with the narrator’s refusal to communicate his anger to a tree, but the overdetermined nature of the words Blake uses makes a final, correct determination of meaning impossible. In this paper, through a utilization of Derrida’s methods set forth in works such as Spectres of Marx and Dissemination, I will examine how the contradictory imperatives contained within the metaphors in this poem draw a reader away from their initial assumption (i.e. this poem is about a man accepting his feelings of wrath) into interpretations Blake may not have intended (Derrida 1972, 1994). And conversely, I will demonstrate how, even after closely following various paths of Derridean différance through this …show more content…
To illustrate this problem, in the quote the narrator steals into his own garden, indicating he always knew his foe was there. And continuing to focus on Blake’s use of the word “stole” only creates further problems. To explain, Blake uses stole as a verb, but the modern definition of stole deals primarily with property crimes in the past tense (i.e. he stole my book). When Blake uses the verb stole c. 1780, the verb could also be defined as to hide, or to sneak (i.e. he snuck into a garden) (“Steal, v.1.”). The narrator’s need to sneak into his own garden is both troubling and confusing, if it is his garden, what is his foe doing there? Is the foe something internal to the narrator? Is the narrator hiding from himself? No amount of contorted différance can explain this poem’s various contradictory imperatives, there are no singular answers to any of these …show more content…
In other words, after a study focused within the context of the poem itself, the poem’s meaning comes apart and becomes something different than what it was before deconstruction, while – at the same time – always remaining unchanged. The poem remains what it always is throughout my examination. Through a detailed analysis focused on deconstructing Blake’s metaphoric “trees as feelings” into internal and external constructs acting simultaneously as both part of the narrator’s self and independent of the narrator’s person, a deeper, possible/impossible meaning is uncovered. And furthermore, by dissecting these undecidable meanings the narrator’s deeply personal and hidden emotions are revealed; all the complexity and conflicting emotions inherent to his situation are contained within the poem’s subtext. While this poem – like many poems – relies on overdetermined words and conflicting imperatives to convey meaning, it does not suffer from an overall loss of meaning. All meanings uncovered by my deconstruction lead to the same concept: one must acknowledge and express their feelings, or be inevitably destroyed by

Related Documents