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“The Chimney Sweeper” is one of the poems written by William Blake which is based on the status of the society during the Industrial Revolution. During this period, people suffered from extreme poverty as materialism, social injustice, and child enslavement thrived. Hence, writers such as William Blake resorted to expressing their thoughts through their literary works. The poem deals with the detestable exploitation of young children as chimney sweeper. It appears that Blake used bleak contrasts to present this deplorable practice.
While some of the lines contained innocent rhymes, the subject matter is dark and grim. Blake wrote the poem from the perspective of a young boy who became a chimney sweeper. On the first two lines of the poem, the main character of the poem tells the readers how he became a chimney sweeper: when his mother died, his father sold him before he can even speak. As it was told in rhymes, these lines reflect how innocent the boy is of the social injustice plaguing England at that time.
His naivete has caused him to accept his circumstance while hoping for the day when his freedom from impoverishment would come.
He also appears to be stronger than his fellow chimney sweeper, Tom Dacre. When Tom cried because he lost his hair, the narrator comforted him by making Tom realize the brighter side of his misfortune: “”Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare, / You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair. ” Thus, for the sake of Tom, he had to remain strong.
In the third stanza, Blake used a dream to portray Tom’s desire to escape his unfortunate fate and live freely in a heaven-like place.
Towards the end, the angel in the dream reminded Tom to “be a good boy” if he wants to go to heaven. This dream could be the representation of Tom’s innocent hope. Thus, when Tom awoke from the dream, he felt “happy and warm. ” The poem ends with Tom concluding that all will be well as long as he performs his duties. This duty may mean two things: his job as a chimney sweeper, and his duty to God. Despite their unfortunate circumstance, the young chimney sweepers do not seem to bear ill-feelings about their miserable lives.
Instead, they seem to look at the brighter side of things and hold on to hope that a better life is out there for them. Through this poem, Blake may be trying to make his readers feel guilty. These children who seem to lead such difficult lives are capable of optimism, while those who are more fortunate do nothing but complain. If this was an accurate representation of the exploited young children’s thoughts during the Industrial Revolution, Blake may also be encouraging his readers to act against child enslavement and save the children’s innocence before it becomes tainted.
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