Chimney Sweeper

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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"The Chimney Sweeper"� Used for Social Comment William Blake used his poetry as a powerful instrument for social comment. James Draper said, "Blake exposes the evils inhering in the orthodox conception of virtue and the virtues inhering in the orthodox conception of evil. Characteristically, Blake identifies religion with laws that focus on restrictions and diversions rather than on spiritual harmony"� (Draper 296). In "The Chimney Sweeper"� written in 1789, Blake tells the story of what happened to many young boys during this time period. Boys, as young as four and five were sold for the purpose of cleaning chimneys because of their small size. These young children were exploited and lived a meager existence that was socially acceptable at the time. Frank Magill stated, "Blake intuits the divinity of man, the falseness of society and the falseness of laws based upon societal behavior"�(Magill 250). Blake voices the evils of this acceptance through point of view, symbolism, and irony.

Blake expresses his poem in first person, as a young chimney sweeper. This gives his poetic voice creditability, as the subject of the poem is chimney sweepers. Using first person also creates a deeper sense of sympathy in the reader. This young boy, the poetic voice, lost his mother while "I was very young"� (Norton 1352; ln.1). Soon after the loss of his mother, "My father sold me while yet my tongue could scarcely cry "˜Weep! "˜Weep! "˜Weep! "˜Weep!'"� (Norton 1352; ln. 2-3). This sympathy allows the reader to realize not only how these children lived, but also how they felt and how they were deprived of their childhood.

Blake uses symbolism to express the evils of exploiting these small boys. Much of this symbolism is about death. This gives the poem a dark mood. Blake writes, "So your chimneys...

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