The Chimney Sweeper Essay

1552 words - 7 pages

William Blake, author of Songs of Experience, wrote various poems, which are accompanied by their contradicting Songs of Innocence poems. Through the contradiction of both poems, Blake emphasizes the need for both innocence and experience in order to live a good life. In “The Chimney Sweeper”, Blake shows the life of a young orphan boy. In the songs of innocence poem, the boy is naive and is unaware of the injustice around him; however, the songs of experience poem contradict that life style and shows pain and sorrow in the boy’s life. The title of this poem, “The Chimney Sweeper” refers to the harsh jobs of cleaning chimneys which orphans were told to do. It is through the title, that Blake first introduces the topic of child labor and how it was causing children to lose their innocence. In “The Chimney Sweeper”, Songs of Experience, Blake actively conveys the ruthless life of an orphan through the use of tone and imagery in order to express his opposing views of child labor.
The poem begins with a brief image of the orphan’s loneliness. Blake explains that the orphan is “[a] little black thing in the snow, /Crying “weep! weep!” in notes of woe” (Blake 1-2). It is often perceived that white symbolizes purity and black is often associated with despair. This passage indirectly conveys the message that the orphan is a problem for the society. Through the use of descriptive words, Blake stresses that the boy is ignored and child labor is leading him into depression instead of joy. The contrast between black and white clarifies that the boy is pure at heart but the suffering has turned his purity into despair. This leads to the idea that the quality of the boy’s life is like death. The boy is already dead to society because he is referred to as a “black thing” and not a child.
The first stanza also presents a depressing tone when the boy expresses how his parents have abandoned him. This tone comes through in the passage, “Where are thy father and mother gone? Say!”--/ “They are both gone up to the church to pray” (Blake 3-4). Through this passage, Blake indicates that the poem will be through the perspective of the young boy. This sets the tone of the poem because since the orphan is sad about his existence, he will express it through a direct message to the audience. The first line of this quotation displays a demanding tone. The person demands the orphan to state where his parents have gone. The orphan replies that they have gone to pray, but what he really means is that his parents have abandoned him. The orphan wants to convey that his parents left him in misery and died, but instead he uses a lighter tone to develop this message. It seems like the boy is abandoned to the modern society because the young boy is out in the cold when his parents should be supporting him and giving him warmth. Stanza one sets the sad tone of the poem and creates an image of a young boy who is ignored by society.
The orphan continues to express his sadness...

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