The Chimney Sweeper Essay

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The poem “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake is about a young child who is thrust into the occupation of scrubbing soot from chimneys after his mother died and father sold him. During London’s Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century, this was an accepted practice for many poor and orphaned children. They were exploited and stripped of their childhood simply because they could fit inside chimneys. Blake’s theme is to depict the harsh life of child chimney sweepers, showing disdain for this profession. The innocent speaker tells of Tom Dacre, a child chimney sweeper. Tom cries when his hair is shaved and is comforted by the young child speaking. Tom dreams that he and his fellow sweepers are locked up in black coffins. An angel with a key frees them from their life of bondage, entering them into an open plain, where they are clean and full of boyhood joy. The angel counsels the children to be good, so they can inherit this kingdom one day, free of the life of nonstop toil and drudgery that enslaves them. After their break of sleep, Tom and the other children awake in the dark to continue their sweeping, their attitudes are optimistic, knowing that they will one day become free as they were in Tom’s dream. Blake uses literary devices such as tone, symbolism and musical techniques to appeal to his audience, with the hope that he will ignite sympathy and compassion in the reader. Blake’s sets the tone, by allowing the speaker to be an innocent child, sharing his child-like point of view. This is indicated by the choice of words he has chosen, such as “weep, weep, weep (Kennedy & Gioia, 2013, p 520).” Children were forced into chimney sweeping before they could even pronounce the word sweep. The tone given is dark and foreshadows death. This is expressed when Blake states “coffins of black (Kennedy & Gioia, 2013, p 520)”, indicating that their

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