Blake’s “Visions of the Daughters of Albion”

The main character Oothoon in The Visions of the Daughters of Albion is a liberation figure challenging not only male chauvinism and marriage but the institution of slavery and imperialism in general. The female protagonist Oothoon, a sex slave who is raped by the slave driver Bromion, is clearly made to represent both the fertile, virginal and innocent lands of the pre-colonialism New World and the oppression of the women of Blake’s time, who were, like slaves, treated as property of their husbands. In the course of his poem Oothoon becomes the ultimate symbol for liberation both as a woman and as a slave. Even though the author slyly created Oothoon as a European woman whose skin is described as “snow white” in order to elicit sympathy from European readers that a dark-skinned woman might not have received so heartily, she still becomes the voice of subjugated races.

Social conditioning is also examined as a force in society, since all three characters are chained (literally on the accompanying plates) by the conventions of the society they inhabit and the patriarchal, property-oriented and colonialist attitudes thereof. Bromion says explicitly to Oothoon, “Thy soft American plains are mine, and mine thy north & south: Stampt with my signet are the swarthy children of the sun: They are obedient, they resist not[.]” The double meaning here is transparent.

The idea of people and land as property is also examined, since Theotormon as a lover and owner cares not whether Oothoon as a person is harmed, but rather about his own possession of her and what his failing to obtain such a prize means for himself. He symbolizes the insecurity and oppression of colonialist man—specifically his feeling that for himself to have any value he must enslave and oppress others. It is also not a coincidence that Bromion is sketched as being very masculine and powerful, the idealized man who delights in domination. Like most of Blake’s more revolutionary works, Visions of the Daughters of Albion communicates the social and political ills of the time without having a traditional ending or clear resolution—Blake ultimately places the responsibility for true change upon his observers of the Visions, his readers.

Published by Victor Vaughn

Anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist, monarch of Latveria, owner, National Secretary of the American Party of Labor (APL).

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