The Chimney Sweeper

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Paul Fernandez Professor Wadhwani English 102 27 February 2012 An Interpretation of William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” In William Blake’s poem “The Chimney Sweeper,” we are given a glimpse of the harsh realities surrounding child labor which affected England in the late XVIII and early XIX centuries. It was first published in 1789 in a recollection of poems titled Songs Of Innocence (Soman 2011). Told through the voice of a young boy who was sold into the chimney sweeping business, the poem illustrates on the issue of child labor by providing a first-hand account from someone that transpires innocence. By doing this, William Blake manages not only to awaken sympathy and pity on the reader towards the children but also poses a direct criticism towards society itself and various social institutions of the time for not intervening and helping these children. The poem is divided into six quatrains, each following an AABB rhyme scheme (Todd, Bella). In the first stanza, the author introduces the teller of the poem, a young boy whose mother had perished and was consequently sold by his father into working as a chimney sweeper (Kennedy, Gioia 441).With this introduction, William Blake gives rise to a dark and sad scenario in an attempt to capture the reader’s emotions. This is further supported when the young child recalls on how he couldn’t even pronounce the word “sweep” when he was introduced into the chimney sweeping business. This would constitute a direct allegation of his young age. In addition to this, he tells us with a childish and innocent tone of some of the harsh conditions which child chimney sweepers like him had to endure, “So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep,” (Kennedy, Gioia 441). By recalling on these events, William Blake attempts to capture the reader’s emotions by raising pity on them; first by displaying the young age of a
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