I WISH THAT I COULD BE LIKE THE COOL KIDS: HOW THE AGE OF INNOCENCE HAS ALTERED
Throughout William Blake’s, Songs of Innocence and Experience, he goes to great lengths on both accounts, of showing the true differences between a life of innocence, and how this is altered once experience has come into play. Between the comparison of “The Lamb,” and “The Tyger,” Blake efficiently depicts the perspectives that are present through the eyes of a child, and the eyes of an adult, or someone who has “experienced,” life a little more. However, in contrast to Blake’s time that he wrote these poems, today’s society faces a generation of children that didn’t get to fully experience being a kid, and therefore feel like because they have knowledge on sex, television, and social actions, they have experienced life. This perception from children is clearly wrong, however is not going to get any better, as children are trying to be the “it” kid.
Innocence can be defined as, “freedom from sin or moral wrong, purity” (Innocence). In 1789, William Blake wrote Songs of Innocence, and the idea of innocence is best defined in the poem of “The Lamb.” Blake describes the lamb as being a warm innocent animal, which in relation can be compared to children of today. As “The Lamb” relates to the Bible, children are born without sin. However, keeping a lid on top of youth being able to escape from this innocence, and loss of imagination, can be harder than it appears. Children in the time of William Blake were not exposed to the things that children are today. Members of my church would constantly say, “these kids are facing a different world, and different troubles than we did when we were kids.” Whenever they would say this, I always thought, “you all faced your own set of troubles, and our lives are no different.” However, as I have gotten older I can see that innocence has become a thing of the past. Sheep stay together, in their lack of understanding, and being incredibly naïve. Although this is the lifestyle that most hope for children to stay in, for at least a little while of their lives, it isn’t the lifestyle that is encouraged by today’s society. It is no longer “acceptable,” to be one of the many (sheep) anymore, but to stand your ground, and to be like a tiger. Rebecca Sweat mentions, “…children who are hurried out of childhood still miss out on a lot of the simple pleasures of growing up, of innocent fun and happy experiences that they should be able to look back on when they are adults.” Part of the joy of innocence is that ability to be care-free, and unconcerned with the things of the world. Only having to focus on being a kid, or even a “lamb.”
William Blake completed Songs of Experience in 1794, and with this portion of his poetry, begins to show the harsh realities of life. To Blake, and more commonly in this particular time period, experience came from being an adult, and from actually growing up, as opposed to simply being exposed to certain aspects of life. As Songs of Innocence, particularly “The Lamb,” portrayed life through the eyes of a child, “The Tyger,” begins to show life through someone who has truly experienced life. It helps in showing the fierce and powerful world that we live in, and in seeing that one’s innocence cannot stand against it, like a lamb does not have a change against a tiger. As children today are innocent in being protected from the outside world, it becomes harder and harder as the outside world is practically forcing it’s way in. Whether it is through television, what they may hear on the radio, even from things their parents talk about, children can only be innocent, or protected for a small portion of their lives. Studies have shown that more than two-third of parents believe that their child is no longer innocent at the age of ten. The New York Times shared an article where a single-mother discussed how she came home to her two pre-teenagers watching “Midnight Blue,” and when she expressed to them that they didn’t need to watch that anymore, they responded with, “If you’re going to stay out so late, we’re going to watch whatever we want!” (Winn) Children, even pre-teenagers, no longer feel guilt or see there being any harm in them watching television shows, videos on social media, or wherever they get their “news feed” from, that contain extreme adult content, because in today’s society, it is no longer even really considered to be just for adults. Although anyone with any morals would see that two twelve year-old kids have no business watching something of that nature, it has become part of the norm. Hearing and seeing children, that are only in middle school, talk and post about things like sex, drinking, drugs, and their participation in it, could even make a grown man blush. Another mother mentioned how the things her children talked to her about, were topics that should would never even dream about discussing with her own mother. The loss of innocence today has not come with experience, but from children being exposed too early. Some parents describe it as, kids not being able to experience their entire childhood. Because of this , t has reached a point in today’s society that even adults are no longer surprised by things said, and actions of today’s youth. To see a news story of an eleven-year old being pregnant no longer comes as a shock to anyone, because kids are so exposed, and feel like they have vast experiences, to take part in adult behavior. So, where has this presence of innocence gone?
As Irving Howe said, “the knowledge that makes us cherish innocence makes innocence unattainable.” Once we have lost our innocence, there is no getting it back. This is the comparison that Blake makes between “The Lamb,” and “The Tyger.” Both creatures unique in their own way, however, the tiger being more powerful than the lamb. Once the “lamb,” or our innocence is gone, we cherish those days of life being easier, warmer, and more imaginative. Children should hold onto their innocence as long as possible. It may not make them the “cool guy,” but it will make them more prepared for their experiences to come.
Featured Image: http://quotes.lifehack.org/media/quotes/quote-Irving-Howe-the-knowledge-that-makes-us-cherish-innocence-240881.png
Children Losing Their Innocence Too Soon.” DeseretNews.com. N.p., 29 Jan. 1999. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
“Innocence.” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
Sweat, Rebecca. “Whatever Happened to Childhood?” Social Issues:. N.p., 2004. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
Winn, Marie. “WHAT BECAME OF CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Jan. 1981. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
This is an interesting rethinking of Blake’s Lamb and Tyger (his spelling) with a refitting the pair to modern morals and culture. Also interesting in comparing the paradigm of innocence in 1789 with what we have in 2015. I enjoyed this piece as a “modernizing” of Blake’s approach to see whether the model of innocence still is the same. To me the most compelling statement was the loss of innocence of today’s youth, who are now acting the tiger or being “tigered.”
That’s the freaky things about children though; they’re innocent, but they’re also these tiny versions of human beings, who if not emulating adults, then they’re picking up subtle cues that adults often miss. So, even in their innocence, they also “know’ things. Kids are a fascinating contradiction. This is also a very interesting interpretation to two of Blake’s poems, especially in how you correlate it to modern times. I don’t know if kids these days aren’t necessarily as innocent as kids back in the “olden days” though. I do agree that the prevalent use of technology and how fast information can be obtained and exposed is a huge part in “accelerating” the loss of innocence, but then again, kids in the olden days had exposure to child labor, lacked resources (compared to now) on how to deal with diseases or domestic/sexual abuses, and until really modern times, they were considered “belonging” to their parents. Your post sheds great light on human nature and how we treat and view previous/future generations though. Just like during Blake’s times, questions of innocence (or lack of), will always be a part of society and cultural transformations.
I really enjoyed reading your post and I liked the title! The way you introduce the topic of innocence in Blake’s poetry and using pop culture to state how times have changed is really interesting. I also thought that your references were great and I was shocked to read about “parents thinking their kids are no longer innocent by the age of ten”
I agree on your stance. Part of the problems in our society is that we are desensitized to a lot of content. It is not only children that are viewing terrible content. There is certain content that adults should not even see, but a lot of immoral material has become normal for adults.
Also, recently my eleven year old sister told me some of the actions her peers were making. I was shocked that she said some of her classmates were sexually involved and drank alcohol. When I was eleven, I did not even know about some of the information she told me. I am amazed that our world has changed so drastically in the past ten years.
There are some interesting points here, but I think that Blake would ultimately disagree with the nostalgic outcomes that contemporary society places on childhood “innocence” v. adult “experience.” For Blake, this is all about perspective, not childhood v. adulthood. There are plenty of poetic sequences in this collection that complicate this dichotomy–“The Chimney Sweeper” sequence being the most obvious since both speakers are children who have experienced the deaths of their friends and other hazards of their dangerous occupation. Blake also sees the value in “Experience” since it allows for a critical perspective rarely seen in “innocence”. The speaker in “The Tyger” exemplifies this from a personal, religious perspective, as does the experienced speaker in the chimney sweeper who attacks organized religion and government for abusing children by subjecting them to harsh environments and justifying the treatment through their own use of dogma and propaganda.