William Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion is a representation of the author’s convictions concerning repression and physical and religious slavery. Oothoon, Blake’s heroine, is subject to the rejection of two men who are unable to provide her with the pure, innocent love she so desires. Upon plucking Leutha’s flower, Oothoon indicates that she is ready to experience a man. The first she encounters, Bromion, rapes her, then claims he has impregnated her, making her his possession. Theotormon, the object of Oothoon’s affection, binds Bromion and his newfound lover together, punishing them for their display of sexuality, as seen in the frontispiece plate. Theotormon’s life is ruled by Urizen, his vision of God–a vision Oothoon condemns because it encourages “self enjoyings of self denial” (7.9). Theotormon cannot concede to Oothoon’s proclaimed love because he is so bound by his religion. Oothoon therefore, is unable to love anyone in her triangle because both repress her love.
When Bromion rapes Oothoon he proclaims:
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, they obey the scourge:
Their daughters worship terrors and obey the violent. (Blake 1.20-23)
The “soft American plains” are Oothoon’s body and the physical land that Bromion shows no remorse desecrating. The “swarthy children of the sun” are the slaves he has control over. Bromion’s philosophy is based on power derived from material possession and exploitation. Even sexuality is a means of domination, as after he rapes Oothoon he proclaims, “Now thou maist marry Bromion’s harlot”(2.2). It is assumed that Bromion is speaking to Theotormon when he adds, “and protect the child of Bromion’s rage” (2.2-3). By raping Oothoon, Bromion not only takes her virginity, but acquires her as his possession. Even though she is passed on to Theotormon, she has been had by Bromion and remains his.
To Theotormon Bromion says, “is there not one law for both the lion and the ox? And is there not eternal fire, and eternal chains? To bind the phantoms of existence from eternal life” (4.22-24). It is the threat of the fire and chains of hell that Bromion uses to repress his victims. Oothoon reflects on her situation saying, “They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up, And they inclos’d my infinite brain into a narrow circle” (2.31 32). The assumption is that Oothoon is commenting on the society whose ideals have prevented her from being able to escape this repression.
It isn’t however only Bromion who attempts to exercise his power. Theotormon, who would be considered a modern day masochist, finds pleasure in punishing himself. After imprisoning Bromion and Oothoon, Theotormon sits “wearing the threshold hard / With secret tears” (2.6-7). Theotormon continually refuses to validate Oothoons pleas for love as his tears and woe remain. This is the control Theotormon has over Oothoon. By denying her his love, he not only continues to repress himself, but her as well–just as Bromion does.
In an attempt to show Theotormon that she too can be pure, Oothoon calls his eagles down “to prey upon her flesh” (2.13) A physical representation of what Theotormon does to himself spiritually, “Theotormon severely smiles; her soul reflects the smile” (2.18). Here again, Bromion and Theotormon are alike. Bromion enjoys the pain he inflicts on others, especially in sex, while Theotormon, who enjoys self-inflicted pain through sexual repression, also derives pleasure in the pain others cause themselves. Oothoon proclaims an intrinsic form of love that is “Infancy, fearless, lustful, happy! nestling for delight In laps of pleasure; Innocence! honest, open, seeking The vigorous joys of morning light” (6.4-6). Oothoon’s love is unable to prevail over either one of her repressors philosophies and she is condemned to an existence that for her, must slightly resemble hell.
Courtney from Study Moose