Symbolism In 'The Chimney Sweeper' By William Blake

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In William Blake’s poem, “The Chimney Sweeper” from the book, Songs of Innocence, Blake mocks society through the use of symbolism in light versus dark in order to show a sense of contrast in the chimney sweepers’ innocence versus their inevitable destiny. Within the first stanza, the speaker says “So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep”(4), which is using the dark color of “soot” to symbolize the protagonist’s new beginning and the end of his innocence. This describes the level of risk the children go through in order to keep up with this job, because it is requiring them to sleep within the soot. It could even be implied that “sleep” actually means the death of these children, since chimney sweeping is such a dangerous task. Another point in this poem where is says the children sleep in “coffins of black,”(12) could also imply that this laborious task is causing the death of these children. In a literal way, it is saying that the chimneys they sweep actually become their coffins. It is clear Blake wanted to show that child labor is not only taking away the children’s innocence, but also their lives. Although it seems like their innocence can never return, the protagonist then reassures Tom “that the soot cannot spoil your white hair”(8), which symbolizes that his the darkness will not affect his innocence forever. Tom’s white hair represents his innocence, which is a symbol of light, and the soot is, again, a symbol of darkness that takes over. This reassurance also
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