The child, o young to properly pronounce ‘sweep’ as he calls to potential customers from the streets instead cries out ;peep! Weep! Weep! Weep” (Blake 520). The irony presented here is through the play on words sweep and weep. Blake uses the ironic point of view to present the image of a small child covered in soot weeping in the street as he has realized that he is now an orphan forced to work as chimney sweeper. Further irony can be seen in the cheery tone of the child uses when speaking to comfort his friend who is upset after having his head of beautiful hair shaved (Blake 520).
The closing lines of the poem are also ironic in their sarcastic tauter. The “duty’ of the boys is to clean chimney which was a very dangerous Job on many levels. Children frequently died of suffocation inside the chimneys and were exposed to soot that contained carcinogenic elements (Schuster 21). By performing their “duty’ as chimney sweeps, the boys had many reason to fear harm. The irony of “duty’ in the last line of the poem can also be expanded to the failure of those that owed a duty to the child.
The boys father failed to provide and care for him after the death of his mother and sold him to the chimney sweepers (Blake 520). One can also lean from the poem that the chimney sweep masters do not perform their duty to care for their wards and treat children poorly forcing them to “sleep in soot” and work long hours (Blake 520). The speaker is introduced to the reader as a very young child sold into servitude by his father after the death of his mother (Blake 520). The speaker of the poem is never named but speaks with the voice of youth and innocence.
While the speaker’s actual spoken words in the poem are generally positive and optimistic, they stand in stark contrast to the underlying voice of condemnation of child labor offered by Blake himself that come through the words of he poem. The use of the child’s voice as narrator by Blake gives the poem as an overall tone of sadness at as the boy losses his childhood and its accompanying innocence. The poem also contains a dream sequence filled with imagery and iron The dream, had by another chimney sweeper Tom Dare is relayed and then told b the speaker.
In the dream, the boy sees many chimney sweepers “locked up in coffin of black” (Blake 520). This is an allusion to both the coffin like confines of the chimneys, often only nine inches wide (Schuster 21), that the children are forced t sweep and to the actual coffins many child chimney sweepers end up in. The angel that frees the boys from their coffins is both a literal and figurative angel. Figuratively, the angels to the boys would be the charity workers and child labor law reform seekers that would rescue them from their state of servitude.
Literally, the angel is there to greet the dead boys in the afterlife and welcome them to Heaven where they are finally free to be children. The dream shows also encompasses iron in the Joy and happiness that the young children experience being able to finally bathe. Although the angel promises Tom that if he behaves well he would “have Go or his father, and never want JOY’ (Blake 520) there is a certain sadness in the angel promise as chimney sweeper comes to the realization that death is the only thing that will bring true freedom.
The speaker’s loss of innocence is complete with this realization. Blake uses irony throughout the poem in several ways to present the plight of child chimney sweepers. The use of irony to contrast the harsh realities of life for child laborers and the voice of childhood innocence is powerful and moving. The poem is not Just a poem about a young chimney sweeper but a public address ND condemnation of the practice of forced servitude that exploits children in such deadly way. Reference List Blake, William. “The Chimney Sweeper” Literature An Introductions to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing.
X. J. Kennedy and Dana Tioga Deed. New York: Pearson, 2013. 520. Print. Schuster, Sheila. An Analysis of Childhood and Child Labor in Charles Dickens’ Works: David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. Hamburg: Anchor Academic publishing, 2014. 21, 22. Web. Poetry Essay Outline “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake Introduction Thesis statement – Through the voice of innocence in “The Chimney Sweeper”, William Blake uses irony to shine a light on the treatment and horrid conditions of child chimney sweepers. Irony “weep! Weep! Weep! Weep! Instead of “sweep” Irony of duty (parents failed in their duty to take care of their children and now the children must do their ‘duty by working as chimney sweepers. Reader can also glean that the children are not well taken care of by their owners/employers. “Not fear harm” chimney sweeping was dangerous work for children and posed health hazards (Find source to support this). Speaker Speaker in the poem is a young, innocent, orphan child sold the chimney sweepers Flake’s voice comes through to tell the reader that he condemns the treatment of child chimney sweepers and their certain early death.
Loss of childhood innocence, not being allowed to be child and taken care of. Forced into servitude. Tone conveys certain sadness for the children’s situation and Flake’s compassion for them. Dream Tom Dare, another innocent child chimney sweeper has a dream Boys are in coffins opened by the Angel Boys are clean, in a fresh green beautiful field Boys are free to laugh and play. Speakers realization that the boys will only be really free in death, most likely an early death. Conclusion.