Note for the purpose of a new critical analysis of the poem, it is best not to think of “London” of the title strictly as London (a real place in the world), but rather as a sign for any modern, industrialized metropolis.
- What is the main idea of the poem? What choice of words (diction) contribute in creating this idea?
- What tension or conflict does the poem set up in the first stanza? Look up the meanings of the word “charter”: what does it mean that a street is “chartered”? What about the Thames (the river that runs through London)?
- “Chater’d” is repeated in the first two lines. What other words are repeated in the poem? What might be the purpose of such a repetition?
- The third and fourth stanza moves to particulars by focusing on more specific conflicts by establishing what Jonathan Culler considers a “synecdochic series,” that is a list of particulars set to belong to a “general class.” To which “general class” do the chimney-sweeper, the hapless soldier, and the harlot belong? Conversely, to which “general class” do the Church, the Palace, and Marriage belong”? How would you then characterize the conflict between theses two classes?
- How does your answer to these last questions reinforce or illuminate your understanding of the poem as established in the question #1?
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