The Chimney Sweeper

About The Chimney Sweeper

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

Sublime in literature is something that sets everything away from the rest. It makes you really think about something and paints a picture in your mind. A sublime moment is something that puts you in complete awe when you read or see it. My sublime poem I read was ” The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake. The Chimney Sweeper portrays the harsh unimaginable living and working conditions for young children using descriptive language and imagery.

This sublime experience starts off with the narrator who is a chimney sweeper who states ” And my father sold me while yet my tongue, could scarcely cry ‘weep! ‘ weep! ‘ weep! ‘ weep! ” (Lines 2-3, 131). Right off the bat it screams innocence to me. How could someone sell their child off before they could even talk? This paints a mental picture most parents in today’s day and age couldn’t even imagine doing.

There is a shift change in the second stanza where the speaker begins to talk about his friend Tom Dacre rather than himself. Blake uses a simile to describe Tom’s appearance and innocence by saying ” There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, That curl’d like a lamb’s back, was shav’d so I said” (Lines 5-6, 131). Blake is saying Tom has curly hair like a lamb. Lambs are innocent young animals, which help describe Tom’s innocence. Blake’s diction paints the picture deeper than it really is; just how young these children working to clean these chimneys really are.

Moving on in the poem, the narrator talks about a dream that Tom had where he saw other children “lock’d up in coffins of black;” (Line 12, 131). The names that Blake used seem to be super generic names of the time maybe trying to show the fact that many children are chimney sweepers at such a young age. The “black coffins” paint a picture in your head of the children sleeping in their beds covered in soot, or the fact that this chimney sweeping job is so hard on these children that the coffins represent the children dying.

Blake uses imagery in stanza 4, still talking about the dream by saying “And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he open’d the coffins & set them all free: Then down on a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, ” (Lines 13-15, 131). The poem starts to seem like it is getting bright and cheerful because an angel appeared and set all the chimney sweepers free to green grass that they never see. It’s painting a picture for the children to see what life is like after a life of chimney sweeping.

“Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,” (Line 17, 131), these bags Blake speaks of may just be the children’s bags of things such as their brooms from sweeping. Blake also mentions how their naked and white, meaning they are no longer covered in soot anymore they are clean and soot free. “And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, He’d have God for his father & never want joy” (lines 19-20, 131). The angel is telling Tom that god can be his new father and he can experience joy for the rest of his life. Coming from an angel this seems to me like she is talking about heaven.

The poem ends with ” And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark And got with our bags & our brushes to work, Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm; So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm” (lines 21-41, 131). This line to me broke my heart. These children believe that they should have to waste their entire lives as chimney sweepers, and if they continue with their duties they will have somewhere warm and great to go just like Tom did. They basically work, work, work just to die at such a young age. Their lives are gone before they even have started.

Working with children, this poem was the most sublime for me. It sets this apart from the rest of the poems by William Blake because it is the most heartbreaking way for kids so young to have to live life this way. Seeing the innocence in children day after day working in a daycare and then reading this poem and seeing the way that the children are living and working in bad working conditions just kills me. Blake portrays the harsh unimaginable living and working conditions for young children all while using descriptive language and imagery to help paint the picture of how gruesome their lives really were.

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Literary analysis of The Chimney Sweeper

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

TENTATIVE THESIS STATEMENT: Two themes of the utmost importance to highlight are the oppression of innocent children and the conflict of commercial values versus human values. Blake uses homophones, similes, and metonymy, a type of metaphor, as literary devices to develop and emphasize these two themes.

A poetic analysis of “The Chimney Sweeper” for thesis development.

I. Children, especially the younger age group, do not necessarily understand what is right nor what is wrong. There is a level of innocence that is granted to every child. This poem showcases the oppression of such innocent children.

A. In a way, the father of the young sweep, whom happens to be the narrator, sells his son into slavery.

B. The Young Sweep is put to work before he can use or form proper words.

C. These innocent young children work and sleep in chimney soot. It appears that bathing is not something that is readily available.

II. Commercial values versus human values.

A. A dirty job has to be done. Who is supposed to do this job that no one wants to do?

B. It is a business or commercial advantage to be had by keeping most of the profits for the pockets of the owner while increasing production via enslaving poor innocent children. It is also an economic gain to feed small children than it is to feed adults.

III. Types of literary devices being used to emphasize these two themes: homophones, similes, and metaphors.

A. The use of the word ‘weep to mean sweep and to visualize the cry of the oppressed children is a wonderfully placed homophone.

B. The simile used to compare Tom Dacre’s hair to a lamb is a well placed correlation of innocence.

Contents

  • 1 INTRODUCTION
  • 2 BODY
  • 3 Conclusion

INTRODUCTION

1. There are multiple themes conveyed through a myriad of literary devices to note throughout “The Sweeper”.

2. Thesis statement – Two themes of the utmost importance to highlight are the oppression of innocent children and the conflict of commercial values versus human values. Blake uses homophones, similes, and metonymy, a type of metaphor, as literary devices to develop and emphasize these two themes.

BODY

1. First Main Idea: The first stanza illustrates the oppression of this poor young sweep

and the travesty of the sleeping conditions.

a. The narrator was sold at such a young age the word sweep could not even be uttered correctly hence the line “Could scarcely cry “‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!” (Blake, 2018, p. 820). This is an example of a homophone.

b. Line four of the first stanza makes note of the horrid conditions in which the narrator is bound to, as soot seems to take the place of a comfortable bed or pillow. There is also some slight alliteration being used in line four with the words so, sweep, soot, and sleep. Line four is as follows: “So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.” (Blake, 2018, p. 820).

2. Second main idea: The clash of commercial values and human values. a. Someone has to do the job of a chimney sweeper, however not at the expense of a proper childhood. The value of the lives of these children is nonexistent. They are used as cheap labor for a hazardous task, which makes the commercial value of these children extremely high while showcasing the lowly value of these kids as human beings.

b. These children are forced to breath in black soot at the cost of their health which ultimately leads to the loss of life at a young age. The dangers of this soot is highlighted in the third and fourth lines of stanza three, “That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffns of black.” (Blake, 2018, p. 821).

Conclusion

1. There are many travesties to note in this particular poem. The author, William Blake, portrays his logic very distinctly. The oppression of such innocent children is conveyed in such a way as to make the reader cringe with emotions of anger, sadness, and displeasure. These emotions lead to the reader’s contemplation of the commercial advantages of free labor and child abuse, and how they manipulate and affect society’s outlook on the view of human values concerning the less fortunate.

2. William Blake’s use of literary devices to emphasize these points are both entertaining and thought provoking.

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Poetic analysis of The Chimney Sweeper

May 19, 2020 by Essay Writer

“The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake is one part of a collection of poems known as Songs of Innocence. William Blake communicates “The Chimney Sweeper” in the form of a first person narrative. While utilizing the AABB rhyme scheme, this poem consists of six stanzas of four lines also known as quatrains.

There are multiple themes conveyed through a myriad of literary devices to note throughout the poem. Two themes of the utmost importance to highlight are the oppression of innocent children and the conflict of commercial values versus human values. Blake uses homophones, similes, and metonymy, a type of metaphor, as literary devices to develop and emphasize these two themes.

The first stanza discusses the background of the narrator, a young sweep, regarding the cause or reason of such a deprived condition. This stanza illustrates the oppression of this poor young sweep and the travesty of the sleeping conditions. The mother dies and the father chooses to sell the young sweep into a tumultuous situation. This leads the reader to believe that the father must have been poor, as he chose to sell his child rather than participate in the nurturing of the young sweep. The narrator was sold at such a young age the word sweep could not even be uttered correctly hence the line in line three: “Could scarcely cry “‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”. (Blake, 2018, p. 820). The word weep seems to be a homophone as it helps to visualize a cry but also means to sweep; this appears to be something that a young child might have uttered as they cleaned the chimney. Line four in this stanza makes note of the horrid conditions in which the narrator is bound to, as soot seems to take the place of a comfortable bed or pillow. There is also some slight alliteration being used in line four with the words so, sweep, soot, and sleep. Line four is as follows: “So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.” (Blake, 2018, p. 820). The second stanza helps to highlight the level of innocence in the children to which these circumstances befall, while showcasing the literary elements of metonymy and similes. Metonymy is a figure of speech that illustrates an object or person in correlation to something else. This is highlighted with the comparison between Tom Dacre’s white hair and a lamb, and the innocence they all represent. The symbolism here is genius, as a child and a lamb symbolically share and define innocence. Comparing the curly hair of the child to that of a lamb seems very fitting; one might suggest that the shaving of Tom Dacre’s hair even signified his innocence being lost. The comparison between the curls in Tom Dacre’s hair to the back of a lamb in line six is made using the word like, which identifies the use of a simile. The phrase “That curled like a lamb’s back,”(Blake, 2018, p. 820), is the phrase in which the comparison is made.

Throughout the poem commercial values and human values clash. Someone has to do the job of a chimney sweeper, however not at the expense of a proper childhood. These children are forced to breath in black soot at the cost of their health which ultimately leads to the loss of life at a young age. The dangers of this soot is highlighted in the third and fourth lines of stanza three, “That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffns of black.”(Blake, 2018, p. 821). It looks as if the soot, being black, is the coffin that encompasses the thousands of sweepers and seems to be a primary cause of death. The value of the lives of these children is nonexistent. They are used as cheap labor for a hazardous task, which makes the commercial value of these children extremely high while showcasing the lowly value of these kids as human beings.

There are many travesties to note in this particular poem. The author, William Blake, portrays his logic very distinctly. The oppression of such innocent children is conveyed in such a way as to make the reader cringe with emotions of anger, sadness, and displeasure. The narrator in this poem, an innocent boy, appears to tug at the moral compass of the reader to aid in the prevention of such catastrophic child labor and abuse. These emotions lead to the reader’s contemplation of the commercial advantages of free labor and child abuse, and how they manipulate and affect society’s outlook on the view of human values concerning the less fortunate. William Blake’s use of literary devices to emphasize these points are both entertaining and thought provoking.

References

  1. Blake, W. (2018). The Chimney Sweeper. Greg Johnson and Thomas R. Arp (Eds.) Perrine’s Literature (pp. 820-821). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
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