Chimney Sweeper By William Blake Analysis

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In his poem, “Chimney Sweeper” (from the Songs of Innocence), William Blake portrays 18th century England as a place of injustice and brutality through the eyes of an innocent chimney sweep. While the pure boy who narrates the poem does not realize the harsh realities of his life, Blake nonetheless manages to convey the desolate landscape which he was raised in with clarity. Through his use of a first person perspective, the metaphor of innocence and corruption, and an unreliable narrator, Blake establishes a stark contrast between the child’s innocent perspective and the iniquitous world which surrounds him in order to expose the immorality of child exploitation and labor. In order to fully understand “Chimney Sweeper,” one must first establish the historical framework of life in 18th century England as it would have been experienced by a chimney sweep. The majority of sweeps were orphans and paupers forced into a lifestyle of miserable work because of circumstances out of their control. Whether it be their abandonment for economic reasons or the death of a parent, the children were forced to fend for themselves. Not only was the job miserable, but…show more content…
Hence, there exist no layers of abstraction between the abused and the bystanders, which breaks down any potential distance which the reader could establish between themselves and the exploited narrator. In order to reinforce this theme, Blake subsequently addresses the reader in line 4, “So your chimneys I sweep.” This forceful thrust into the reader’s lives triggers the realization that they too exist within a system that perpetuates the oppression and abuse of young working boys. Thus, the poem perhaps implicates those who stand complacent against social injustice as being guilty through either naivete or
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