Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



The Four Zoas, William Blake's epic poem concerning the fall and redemption of humanity, involves Blake's idea that humanity must progress in order to gain salvation. In prelapsarian Eden, the four masculine Zoas: Tharmas or instinct, Urizen or reason, Urthona-Los or imagination, and Luvah or emotion, and the four feminine Emanations: Enion, Ahania, Enithannon, and Vala, formed Universal Hwnanity. Each Edenic being was comprised of a masculine component, formed by the Zoas, and a feminine component, formed by the Emanations. But Eden was not perfect to its creator, and the Hand Divine detected errors: Eden's innocence lacked wisdom because humanity repressed its imagination and its feminine will. The Hand Divine devised a plan to correct these errors, and His plan required that humanity embrace contrary elements as perpetually contradictory yet always equal. The Four Zoas records humanity's progression through experience and into Eternity. The Hand Divine does not implement his plan of progression alone; he designates the female characters as agents of Divine Will. A feminist critique of The Four Zoas suggests that Blake invests the Emanations and the Daughters of Beulah with much power, and that they act as catalysts for humanity's movement from Edenic innocence, through experience, and into the fourfold vision of Eternity. The Daughters of Beulah, passive and receptive solely toward the Hand Divine, actively plant faithful visions within humanity's subconscious; in particular the Daughters stimulate the Emanations. Enion, following her female intuition, repels Tharmas' innocence. She creates singlefold vision and, with the aid of the Daughters of Beulah, propels humanity into experience. Enion questions experience, comes to a fuller understanding of contrariety, and shares this comprehensive information with humanity through laments. Ahania motivates Urizen to discontinue fearing the future. In addition, Ahania, like Enion, provides humanity with valuable knowledge concerning Eternal Death. Enithannon intuitively acts on behalf of the Hand Divine and as a means of inspiring Los. Her actions include offering lessons (for humanity and Los) on Universal Love. Vala overpowers Luvah and seduces Albion, causing humanity's fall from innocence. By separating from Luvah, Vala inspires the other Emanations to act likewise. Eventually, Vala shrugs off Urizenic guilt concerning her actions in the fall and reconciles herself and humanity with nature. Thus she is instrumental in creating threefold and fourfold vision.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Blake, William 1757-1827 Four Zoas

Blake, William 1757-1827-- Characters -- Women

Women in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University