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What is the summary of the poem A Poison Tree?

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  1. William Blake begins this poem with two very similar incidents that have vastly different results. When he is angry with his friend, he tells him about it, which leads to the anger going away. But when he is angry with his enemy, he hides the anger. This leads to a cycle of negativity that causes the anger to grow like a tree, ultimately resulting in his enemy’s death.

    Stanza 1

    The poet says that he was angry with his friend. So, he told his friend about his anger, and his wrath did end. By expressing his anger to his friend, the poet solved the dispute between them and resolved the feelings of anger that he had felt. However, when the poet was angry with his enemy, he did not tell him. This caused his anger and resentment towards his enemy to grow. Suppressing anger leads to it becoming bigger.

    Stanza 2

    The poet watered the anger that he nursed for his enemy in fears, night and morning with his tears. He sunned it with smiles, and soft deceitful wiles (tricks). Therefore, the poet nurtured the anger inside him with negative emotions such as fear, and also with tears, fake smiles and cunning tricks. He metaphorically cultivated his anger as though it were a plant in a garden. Even the smiles and deceptions that he used to hide the anger only caused it to grow.

    Stanza 3

    His anger grew both day and night. Like a plant that is nurtured well, his anger continuously grew until it bore an apple bright. His enemy saw the shine of the apple and desired it because he knew it belonged to the poet. Here, the apple is an allusion to how repressed anger takes a life of its own that results in violence.

    Stanza 4

    The poet’s enemy sneaks into his garden in the dead of night. In the morning, the poet was glad to see his enemy lying dead, outstretch’d beneath the tree. The tree of the narrator’s hidden anger was poisonous, and so was the fruit that it bore. It ultimately led to the death of his enemy, and he was glad to see it. However, such a violent act is morally reprehensible. Thus, this illustrates the terrible consequences that the repression of strong emotions such as anger might cause. The eating of the poisonous apple stands for the kind of violent acts that anger, when not resolved properly, might lead to.


    Blake warns us against the dangerous consequences of repressed anger. He shows us how anger is resolved by opening up about it. Suppressing it only results in more anger and violence. Therefore, the poet warns us about the danger of bottling up emotions and makes an argument for opening up to people about issues that might be bothering us.

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