Humans, as a species, are subject to making decisions and taking actions without thought. In William Blake’s poem, The Fly, he addresses this fact of life as a human and delves into the philosophical issues that arise from one action in particular, the swatting away of a fly. Blake takes the simple careless action of brushing a fly away and universalizes it into a ponderation of purpose, function, and reason. It is not until the fourth stanza of The Fly that Blake ultimately posits his notions of thought and life. In the end, Blake seems to arrive at a conclusion that is of deep insight, that causes the reader to reflect on the way in which they evaluate their existence, that conclusion being, that whether one desires knowledge, or whether one has it, that it is how one uses said knowledge that makes their life a happy one.
Blake begins by delineating the actual action of the swatting of the fly away. He begins his poem with the very adjective “little” in reference to the fly (Blake 1). With the very first line, Blake is diminishing the stature of the fly in relation to a human. He continues and characterizes his hand that physically does the deed of swatting as a “thoughtless hand” (Blake 3). Blake could have used a plethora of other adjectives in this instance, but his use of the word “thoughtless” tells the reader there was absolutely no purposeful motivation behind his decision and action to brush the fly way. The action was completely and utterly devoid of critical thought, ergo “thoughtless.”
After the brushing away of the fly is this moment in time in which the realization of the swatter’s action comes to the forefront of thought. Blake writes, “Am not I a fly like thee?” (Blake 5-6). Here, Blake is appealing to this idea that humans are but the annoyance a fly is to a human to some larger entity, to something bigger than humans. This point brings about two lines of thought. One thought being this idea that there is some similarity between the human and...