The Chimney Sweeper: Dispair Essay

1430 words - 6 pages

Throughout the Industrial Revolution in England in the 18th century, many children were forced to work against their own will, to support the growing need for labor in the demanding economy. William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper,” meticulously portrays the mindsets of two individuals obligated to carry out these societal expectations of working at a very young age. However, contrary to societies opinion on harmful child labor, Blake uses irony and sarcasm to convey his critical allegation of the wrongdoings of the church and society on their lack of effort to intervene and put an end to the detrimental job of adolescent chimney sweeping. By creating this ironic atmosphere, Blake establishes a poem that is full of despair and suffering but is sugar-coated and disguised with happiness and content provided by the church and society of London.
The first piece of evidence by Blake that identifies the pressure of society placed upon the children is Blake’s particular use of rhyme scheme. Starting with the last two lines of the first stanza of the poem, Blake immediately jumps in to depict his disparaging opinion of society by enforcing the lack of parental protection present for these chimney-sweeping children. The rhyming lines, “I was very young/ … yet my tongue” (3-4) introduce the idea that this individual (the speaker of the poem) was so young and innocent that he could not only say the word “sweep,” but more importantly, that he also could not stand up for himself even against his own father, and oppose the job that he was forcefully sold in to. This particular example demonstrates how vulnerable these children were to society and how they could be easily abused and oppressed. While the first stanza may seem to directly coincide with Blake’s intentions of revealing the detestable behaviors of the Church, he quickly shifts his tone and emphasis to the thoughts of the second child named Tom Dacre, who is even younger and even more ignorant than the speaker. Blake’s purpose of the tonal shift is to symbolize how the church is portrayed as an alluring figure in society. For example in the second stanza, while Tom Dacre has some concerns and even fear about the job, especially about having his hair shaved off, the other child (the speaker) attempts to comfort Tom, showing how society has corrupted these children into a state of obedience at the cost of having a childhood and more importantly a personality. Essentially, the shaving of the head symbolizes Tom Dacre’s demoralization and loss of character, since his hair represents his uniqueness and individuality as a person, which was abruptly taken from him. This specific instance is seen where it states, “ Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare/ You know that soot cannot spoil your white hair,”(7) which fully exemplifies the conviction that the church and society while trying to “comfort” these children, damaged them both physically and mentally.
From the third stanza on, Blake becomes...

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