William Blake was a social critic of his time yet his criticism also reflects society of our own time as well. He mainly communicates humanitarian concerns through his "Songs of Innocence and Experience" which express two opposites, happiness or misery, heaven or hell. "Innocence" expresses the state of childhood, into which we are all born, a state of free imagination and infinite joy. "Experience", is a state when disaster has destroyed initial happiness. He believes that problems concerning child labor, religious institutions, individual apathy, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, war and marriage are the result of humankind's carelessness. He explores this point of view particularly in two of his poems "London" and "The Chimney Sweeper" both from "The Songs of Experience." "The Chimney Sweeper" from "The Songs of Innocence," will be used to show the differences among the two books and Blake's view of society. .
Using imagery and language, Blake protests against various forms of oppression resulting from humans in his poem "London" which speaks about life in London in his times. Blake believes that an individual's state of mind enslaves itself. Therefore, he refers to the Thames and the city streets as "chartered"(1) Meaning that laws and standards have succeeded in placing people in captivity and making them unable to escape from their molded path. Blake also implies that man alters everything into something impure. The water, which was once a beautiful natural river, has now become polluted for merely economic purposes, which illustrates man's negligence. Blake also believes that without man's government, man could live in peace and in freedom. Instead, the image we are becoming used to is one of "marks of woe"(4) on the faces of the pedestrians, and we hear "every infants cry of fear"(6). Blake states that people participate in their oppression by not helping to solve society's problems when he writes that there is an effect of "mind-forged manacles"(8) on every man.