The Main Question of Life: the Origin and Purpose of Life

“The Lamb,” written by William Blake, is describing a child’s song that contains profound mystical significance. The story entails a question and answer regarding the creation of man and the underlying spiritual implication. The narrator’s tone in “The Lamb” is innocent and perplexed by life’s most basic question. The child is puzzled about his origins and the purpose of living. The author’s use of rhetoric is quite amusing as he exemplifies the boy’s naivety by describing his conservation with the lamb, a creature that cannot understand nor speak. The question is solved through an enigma in which the Christian doctrine is preached. Of course, the boy innocently embraces these teachings with faith and conviction that it is the ultimate flawless truth. “The Tyger” drastically contrasts this perspective on religion. 

“The Tyger,” also written by William Blake describes God as the creator not only of all good creations, but of a powerful, dangerous, and beautiful tiger. The story contains stanzas of questions and answers to investigate the reason for the creation of a formidable beast. The narrator is expressing his concerns with God creating immorality and cruelty upon the world with the centerpiece being the tiger. The anecdote also contains the absolute vastness of God’s power and influence by displaying the intricacy of his work and creation. “The Tyger” contrasts itself from “The Lamb” because the view of experience requires knowledgeable recognition of what cannot be explained in the boundless universe.

 “The Tyger” and “The Lamb” are connected with one another because together it demonstrates the outlook on religion as clear and concise as well as abhorrent and peculiar. Blake’s, “The Tyger” and “The Lamb” offers a unique point of view on religion, specifically, that it is requires inspection due to it’s subjectiveness. The Lamb, the embodiment of Jesus Christ, exemplifies the underlying Christian principles of kindness, compliance, and tranquility. The poem depicts a dialogue between a young, immature child and the lamb. The poem ultimately presents an amalgam of the Christian script and pastoral lore. Furthermore, the lamb manifests the universal symbol of selfless innocence and is therefore epitomizes Jesus, the most infamous character notorious for the atonement brought by his crucifixion. 

The innocent child longs to know the answer to the obvious question: “who made thee”. This question embodies a large spectrum of questions from who granted the lamb the ability to live to how did the lamb nourish itself while living beside the river. Blake articulates that the lamb didn’t create its own lusts and passions. He stresses They come that all the lamb has stems from a higher power who “gave thee life, and bid thee feed/ By the stream and o’er the mead”. This stanza is distinct due to the child’s natural quality of innocence is in its first stages in Blake’s exodus of truthfulness. The child discourses with the lamb thinking that the lamb is another child with the ability to speak. The innocent child expresses his intense delight with the lamb’s companionship. The discourse and tone reveal the lamb’s purity and tenderness of childhood.

 Moreover, the boy displays the affection that a child feels for little creatures. In biblical texts, Jesus was a benefactor of optimism and happiness, similar to the lamb. Blake states that God granted the lamb “a tender voice,” and typical characteristic of a child. According to Robert F. Gleckner, the purpose of this poem is: “… as frightening and terrible merely because that’s what tigers in the zoo look like, is to arouse no faculties at all; it is rather to cater to the very human thirst for easy answers, which are based on even easier, unexamined alternatives-good-bad, moral-immoral, freedom-slavery, angels-devils, heaven-hell, God-Satan.” (The English Journal, 538) 

Robert Gleckner is correlating various extremes to explain that humans desire answers to questions that may look easy, but aren’t. This comes from humans trying to understand why God creates both extremes of good and bad, as well as moral and immoral. This directly correlates to “The Lamb” due to the innocence and not being able to examine the most fundamental of questions. The dialogue between the lamb and the child suggests a unique correspondence such that they are indistinguishable. “The Tyger” is about the divine nature and the puzzling grandeur of the natural world. “The Tyger” bids analysis on spirituality and casts doubt on the ancient traditional approach of the Church, that of an all loving God. One of the major questions that is posed is why did God create such a ferocious animal if He is all good? The tiger appears to be a symbol of a divine and ethical problem, which is faultlessly ravishing as well as impeccably devastating.

 The tiger becomes the emblem for the examination of evil in the world. “The Tyger” presents an extra layer of pessimism and discredit to God. Blake hints Satan involvement in the creation of the Tyger when he notes,“In what distant deeps or skies/Burnt the fire of thy eyes?”. “Deeps” signifies “hell” while “skies” signify “heaven,” implying that the maker of the Tyger could be found in one of those places. It is clear that Blake is satirizing, lambasting, and outright executing the notion of a kind and generous, all-powerful Christian god. Fred Kaplan picks up on the profound meaning behind the Tyger as he notes, “Though a literal tiger no doubt lies behind the “fearful symmetry” of Blake’s tiger, the tiger seems as symbolic as the rose, the sunflower, the lily, the clod, the pebble, and the other explicitly physical items from the world of nature in Songs of Experience…” (The English Journal, 618) Fred Kaplan is comparing Blake’s tiger towards the physical items among the natural world; indicating that it too is beautiful. 

“The Tyger” instills a feeling of fear and confusion by hurling a grappling question to all the believers: did God make the gentle and meek animals, but also the destructive and ferocious ones. The question in essence is rhetorical and therefore is followed up by a second distressing question of “if so, why?”. Although “The Lamb” and “The Tiger” address the topic of spirituality and its implications on man, they present various distinctions. “The Lamb” keeps out the horror and evil contained in the world, whereas “The Tyger” rejects the plain and simple nature of innocence. The mere idea of the tigers “fearful symmetry” is a contradiction of horrifying splendor and frightening richness, which is very strenuous for humans to imagine, but easy for God to create. 

Unless it is suggested that God created evil, then the tiger, a creation of God, must not be “evil” since it is the same God who created the lamb as well as the tiger. Therefore since the same God created both animals, the creations indicate the dual-aspect of God of some sort of coexistence. This raises a very puzzling idea in which “The Tyger” exaggerates. The satire presented by these two very different poem is quiet dramatizing. Blake sums up the true entity of the lamb by stating, “He is called by thy name / For he calls himself a Lamb”. The lamb connotes innocence and the underlying meaning of life while at the same time conveys the symbolism of Christ. The poem attributes the characteristics of goodness and purity to God by describing the lamb as “meek” and “mild”. This sharply contrasts Blake’s other poem “The Tyger” which advocates a malicious description of religion and by definition maligns the Creator.

 “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” in this respect are polar opposites of each other. “The Tyger” represents the burdening dread of God while “The Lamb” illustrates naive faith of God’s good through nature. In the Lamb, the creator question is answered. The child immediately acknowledges his Maker without hesitation when he comments, “I a child & thou a lamb;/ We are called by his name”. He states that the one who created him is the same One that created the Lamb. Later on in the poem, it becomes more apparent that he is referring to the Almighty when he utters, “Little Lamb God bless thee. /Little Lamb God bless thee”. On the contrast,“The Tyger” does not offer an answer to question but is rather left to the reader to figure it out. Though these poems are similar in what the question stated, they are different in the way that the question is asked. In “The Tyger”, Blake arrogantly delivers the question, “What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”, while in the Lamb, the question is more sincerely when the child asks, “Little Lamb who made thee/ Dost thou know who made thee”. Although both poems use animals in addressing the question, there is a crisp contrast as to how each animal’s personality affect their tones.

 The difference is that the lamb is considered submissive and gentle, evoking a harmless animal who is asking of pure innocence while the Tyger is considered to be a fearful and dreadful creature asking from insolence. Blake’s use of language in both poems affect tenors of each poem. He purposely employs positive words in “The Lamb,” words like “delight,” “bright,” and “rejoice” as opposed to “The Tyger” which contains gloomy expressions like “burning” and “burnt” which provide an more depressing tone. Even with the stark differences, both poems complement each other to provide a picturesque perspective on life. William Blake strongly opposed the views of the Christian church and its standardized system. Blake, having more of a spiritual position than a religious one, was considered a heretic, but ignored concern of the Church and the influence it wielded in the world. 

His works were viewed as blasphemy and constituted a threat to the tradition of the Christian world. Blake’s works offer a view on religion that portrays the saintliness as well as the grotesque facets of faith. Blake affectively disputed the standardized system of the Church and raised doubts of their teachings. Instead, his pieces encouraged dissection and suggested the nature of God. His works and legacy remain intact until this day as people of all backgrounds toil to find the answer to the child’s question of “who made thee”. A line in “The Tyger” draws an evident link between the two poems: “Did he who made the lamb make thee?” Clearly, this quote is the bridge between the poems and make one dependent on the other.

 The begging question is: if the same God could have made the lamb good as well as the Tyger which manifests evil, how can such good and evil exist so naturally in the same world? William Blake’s daring question is subjective making it unsolvable and propelling to anyone who cares about life.

Works Cited

  • Gleckner, Robert F. “‘The Lamb’ and ‘The Tyger’–How Far with Blake?”
  • The English Journal, vol. 51, no. 8, 1962, pp. 536–543. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/810419. Snodgrass, Jennifer. 
  • Dualities and Icons in The Tyger and The Lamb.” Sacred Music, vol. 135, no. 4, Winter 2008, pp. 40–48.
  • EBSCOhost, libdb.smc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=35939525&site=ehost-live. Shmoop Editorial Team.
  • “‘The Lamb’ in The Tyger.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/tyger/lamb-symbol.html. Kaplan, Fred.
  • “‘The Tyger’ and Its Maker: Blake’s Vision of Art and the Artist.”
  • Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 7, no. 4, 1967, pp. 617–627. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/449529.  
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The main question of life: the origin and purpose of life. (2021, Oct 12). Retrieved October 27, 2021 , from
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