Paper #2 Thesis Paragraph and Revision

Here is the original thesis paragraph.

In William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” the speaker tells of his hopes and dreams for acceptance in heaven alongside white Christians.  The speaker is the black boy, and he sees his color as an obstacle that pushes him further away from both white people and God.  But his mother tells him a comforting story which gives him hope that one day he will be able to join the “little English boy…and be like him, and he will then love me” (22-28).  The influence of his mother’s calming words leads the black boy to offer an idealized vision of blacks as being able to transcend racial divides and join their white brethren in heaven, free from the racism and slavery that exist on earth.  But the form of the poem complicates the speaker’s apparently passive and naïve ideas, and offers an embedded critique of the slave trade that points out the hypocrisy of professed Christians buying and selling human beings.  Blake’s critical voice, which lies just beneath the surface of the black boy’s narrative, points out the terrible injustice and barbaric nature of the slave trade, which demeans and dehumanizes both slave and master.  Thus, Blake uses the poem’s form to present a subtle yet powerful condemnation of the moral corruption of slavery and its attendant racial hierarchies, disguised beneath the seemingly innocent words of its young narrator.

The additions to the revised paragraph do not really change the argument but are added for clarification. One comment I got was that I should try to provide more textual evidence so that is in here. I tried to address more explicitly what aspects of the form I would focus on in the paper. And finally, I added a couple of sentences at the end of the paragraph that indicate what parts of the poem the paper will use to backup the argument.

In William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” the speaker tells of his hopes and dreams for acceptance in heaven alongside white Christians.  The speaker is the black boy, and he sees his color, which makes him feel “bereav’d of light,” as an obstacle that pushes him further away from both white people and God (4).  But his mother tells him a comforting story which gives him hope that one day he will be able to join the “little English boy…and be like him, and he will then love me” (22-28).  The influence of his mother’s calming words leads the black boy to offer an idealized vision of blacks as being able to transcend racial divides and join their white brethren in heaven, free from the racism and slavery that exist on earth.  But the form, diction, and implicit tone of the poem complicate the speaker’s apparently passive and naïve ideas, and offer an embedded critique of the slave trade that points out the hypocrisy of professed Christians buying and selling human beings.  Blake’s critical voice, which lies just beneath the surface of the black boy’s narrative, points out the terrible injustice and barbaric nature of the slave trade, which demeans and dehumanizes both slave and master.  The black boy’s perception of his skin color is the key to Blake’s criticism.  What may initially seem like the black boy’s childish shame at appearing different from the English boy and his desire to “be like him” actually becomes the central condemnation of the English slave-trading society (28).  Thus, Blake uses the poem’s form to present a subtle yet powerful condemnation of the moral corruption of slavery and its attendant racial hierarchies, disguised beneath the seemingly innocent words of its young narrator.

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One Response to “Paper #2 Thesis Paragraph and Revision”

  1. ekkelly Says:

    Your peers offered insightful comments on your rough draft it seems. I agree that the first version needed more clarification as to how form supports your argument. I like the greater level of detail in the second version, but I’m still a little uncertain as to how the fact of wanting to “be like him” offers a critique of slavery. Perhaps it would be better to point to how the imagery complicates the speaker’s view of blackness? I do like your mention of racial hierarchies, but I’m unsure (perhaps as you are) of how this argument will play out.

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