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“Acceptance To The Cruel Reality: A Marxist Reading On William Blake”

1271 words - 5 pages

Marxist views can be frequently spotted within William Blake’s works. The argument that “human interactions are economically driven and are based on a struggle for power between different social classes” is deeply rooted within the lines of Blake’s work. (Gardner, Pg. 146). In fact, “The Chimney Sweeper,” which was first published in 1789, a full half a century before Karl Marx first publicized his Marxist theory in 1848, has several instances of Marxist tones. Critic, Janet E. Gardner, argues that the theological similarities between the views expressed in the poem “Chimney Sweeper” and Karl Marx’s beliefs are easily found. For example, Karl believed that literary characters could be “divided into powerful oppressors and their powerless victims (Gardner, Pg. 145).” Similarly, Blake presents the character Tom Dacre as an accepting victim of the horrible indictment within the economically driven arrangements. An arrangement created to sell and buy children only in order to work and cripple them into a fatal labor. Both Marx and Blake note that the child labor could have come to an end earlier, but the naïve mind-set of the described characters presents them in a dream like nostalgia that even when they “awoke in the dark,” Tom “was [still] happy and warm.” Continuing, the church or government controls the mind of the children in labor; Blake echoes in an extreme sense of the children not seeing the truth or “light” and end up settling with the realities of their life. Similarly, Blake details suggest that the church brainwashes the children into believing that through tedious and cruel hours or if Tom “be a good boy, he’d have God for his father (Blake in Sweeper, L. 18-19).” Blake depicts a metaphysical defiance toward customary ways of understanding in that he compares dissimilar objects in a way to turn the stomachs of the reader and to leave an impression on the importance of his subject matter. “The Chimney Sweeper” lends itself to a Marxist reading as Blake cynically and sarcastically depicts the young and perhaps voiceless victims and their unfortunate acceptance to the social and economic arrangements in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century.
The direct and simple form of the work presents a child-like song full of innocent hope and blind faith. In many of Blake’s works the “speaker is often a child: asking questions of a lamb, meditating on his own blackness, describing the experience of a chimney sweep (Porter, Pg 82).” In “The Chimney Sweeper,” Blake simply illustrates the complexity of society and demonstrates the history and depth of the changes. From the described children having very little bitter toward the cruel treatment and to the voiceless victims demonstrating even less feelings of anger toward the realities of their world. For example, the six quatrains with the flowing rhythm lend itself to be read as a lullaby of sorts. The child’s point of view is seen as naïve; further, Blake’s diction maintains this theme...

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