Criticism Of “the Sick Rose”Criticism of “The Sick Rose”By analyzing more information from different authors, I was able to drawa greater amount contrast from the authors.
I had a better feel for what theywere trying to convey when they wrote their critical essays in their books. Whatever the case, it was easier to judge “The Sick Rose” by having more sourcesto reflect upon. Michael Riffaterre centers his analysis of “The Sick Rose” in “The Self-sufficient Text” by “using internal evidence only to analyze the poem and todetermine to what extent the literary text is self-sufficient. It seems toRiffaterre that a proper reading entails no more than a knowledge of thelanguage” (39). Riffaterre identifies psychological, philosophical, and geneticinterpretations (connected to “mythological tradition”) as “aiming outwards. “These approaches find the meaning of the text in the relationship of its imagesto other texts” (40).
Riffaterre argues for a more internal reading of the poems. Riffaterre emphasizes the importance of the relationships between words asopposed to their “corresponding realities” (40). For example, he states that the”flower or the fruit is a variant of the worm’s dwelling constructed throughdestruction. Thus, as a word, worm is meaningful only in the context of flower,and flower only in the context of worm” (41). After Riffaterre’s reading and interpretation of the poem, he concludes that “The Sick Rose” is composed of”polarized polarities” (44) which convey the central object of the poem, theactual phrase, “the sick rose” (44). He asserts that “because the text providesall the elements necessary to our identifying these verbal artifacts, we do nothave to resort to traditions or symbols found outside the text” (44).
Thus, “TheSick Rose” is a self-sufficient text. Hazard Adams takes a different approach to reading “The Sick Rose” thanmost critics by cautioning the reader that often one “overlooks the fact thata literary image primarily imitates its previous usages and secondarily what itdenotes in the outer world or in the realm of ideas” (13). Adams begins hisanalysis with examining the rose, and by reminding the reader that in a”literary world where the rose is seen archetypally, all things have human form”(14). Thus he allows for the rose to be able to become part of the speaker. Hecarries his idea one step further by suggesting that the speaker always”addresses some aspect of himself” when speaking to an object.
Adams alsoclaims this same identification with the worm as with the rose. He further warnsagainst reading the poem as a simple allegory of sexual seduction; Blakeconsidered that “allegory can contain ‘some vision'”(15). Thus, it seems thatthere is more to the poem than just a surface level reading. Adams concludes bystating that when reading Blake’s poems, the reader should consider “minuteparticulars,” “perspective, to related images in Blake’s other works, and tosymbolic conventions in literature” (15-16).
John Hollowly also approaches an analysis of “The Sick Rose by warningthe reader against unnecessarily complicating the poems by not beginning withthe simple language of the text and its images. He claims that “the language ofthe poem does its work by being somehow transparent; and the subject gainspregnancy of meaning . . .
because of how it stands in a revelatory position . . . seen across the whole spectrum of our existence” (24). He explains that “TheSick Rose” is a popular poem because of the simple tension between the beautifulrose and the “secret, pallid . .
. repulsive” worm (25). Holloway also arguesthat “The Sick Rose” is a retort to poems by Bunyan and Watts. Blake seems toidentify religion as an “enemy to life” (if the worm is read to symbolizereligion and the rose as life), unlike the poems of Bunyan and Watts thatadvocate “virtue not pleasure” (44). In 1987, Elizabeth Langland “wed feminist and formal-thematicmethodologies to analyze Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose'” (225) in “Blake’s FeministRevision of Literary Tradition in ‘The Sick Rose’.
” In her consideration of the”critical tradition” (228) as a tool of study, Langland reviews theinterpretations of other critics such as Hirsch and Bloom. Based on the femininecritique method, Langland suggests a reading in the critical tradition mayreveal “the suspicion and possible hostility . . . toward a certain kind ofwoman” (231).
Her investigation then focuses on the speakers in the poem, andfrom a feminist perspective, she claims that the poem is read “in the context ofa patriarchal speaker” (231). This reveals the way in which expectations affecta reading and assumptions about the text. Thirdly, Langland examines “the wayslanguage, syntax, . . .
and illuminations work to establish new readings” (228). Langland also includes discussions on the revisions of the poems and how theyaffect the poemas well as the reader’s response/interpretation generally. In general “The Sick Rose” criticisms from these four authors arefavorable and just for each of their own view points. “The Sick Rose”represents each and every one of their ideas in their own way. William Blakesurely has put forth an excellent piece of poetry for all ages and generationsto enjoy.
Works CitedAdams, Hazard. William Blake. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1963. Riffaterre, Michael.
“The Self-sufficient text. ” Diacritics 3. 3 (1973): 39-45. Holloway, John. Blake: The Lyric Poetry.
London: Arnold, 1968. Langland, Elizabeth. “Blake’s Feminist Revision of Literary Tradition in ‘TheSick Rose’. ” In Critical Paths.
Ed. Dan Miller, Mark Bracher, and Donald Ault. Durham: Duke UP, 1987. 225-43.