Get help now

The Truth in Child Labor in William Blake’s Two Versions of the Chimney Sweeper

  • Pages 3
  • Words 661
  • Views 14
  • Jill
    Verified writer
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • rating star
    • 4.9/5
    Delivery result 5 hours
    Customers reviews 984
    Hire Writer
    +123 relevant experts are online

    Academic anxiety?

    Get original paper in 3 hours and nail the task

    Get help now

    124 experts online

    In William Blake’s poems “The Chimney Sweeper (1789),” and “The Chimney Sweeper (1794),” Blake explores the immorality of forcing children to work as chimney sweeps and how it affects their lives. Through contrasting his two poems by using paradox, diction, and metaphor, he illuminates the atrocity of child labor that is taking place in eighteenth century London.

    Immediately, it is noticeable that the two poems can be compared to his “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience.” The first version, published in 1789, is the innocence version because the poem has angelic figures in it that come to the sleeping child to give him a vision. Through this vision, the child has an epiphany and musters the strength to continue his job, for if he does his job, he knows he will go to heaven once he dies.

    Blake’s use of the angel symbolizes hope and innocence, showing that even through the corruption of child labor, there is still hope for the children in the afterlife. Blake’s diction in the first version of the poem is noticeably brighter and more hopeful than the experience version of the poem. For example, after the angel “set them all free,” the children are “leaping” and “laughing” and they “wash in a river and shine in the Sun” (1789, 15-16). This, of course, depicts the afterlife in which the children are cleansing their abused bodies in the river and are afterwards ecstatic to be running in fields of green, free from the evils of sweeping chimneys.

    Blake also employs metaphor and paradox in his first version of the poem to exemplify the stark reality in which these children are living. The children desperately wait for the day when the “Angel who [has] a bright key [opens] the coffins and sets them all free,” clearly alluding to the day the children die, and are therefore emancipated from their terrible lives (1789, 13-14). The “coffins” are a metaphor for the chimneys, which are slowly condemning the children to death, but this is the paradox. The children are happy to be experiencing what is normally a very sad part of life: death.

    Finally, in Blake’s second version of the poem, there exists very different diction and a profound metaphor that sets it apart from the first poem in that it identifies the second poem as the one of experience. To begin with, the child’s parents have abandoned him to go “up to the church and pray”, even though it will not help anything, for it is they who have sold their child to the unforgiving life of sweeping chimneys (1794, 4).

    There is a clear difference in Blake’s diction in this poem, as he says that the child is clothed in “the clothes of death,” and has been taught “to sing the notes of woe” (1794, 7-8). This choice in description creates an intensely melancholic mood, as it helps us relate to the atrocious lifestyle these poor children are subjected to, and this is exactly Blake’s intention. He points out the horrors that existed in London at the time, and makes us feel what the children felt: utter and complete despair.

    The paradox that exists in this version of the poem is the very last line, which contains the phrase “a heaven of our misery” (1794, 12). What Blake shows us in the paradox is that the children may appear to be content knowing that they will go to heaven, they are at the same time horribly saddened by the fact that everyone around them seems to think they are okay, when in reality they are suffering greatly.

    In both poems, William Blake exposes the horrifying truth that surrounded the lives of countless children that lived in London in the eighteenth century, and in doing so, he sheds light on how the labor affected the children and how it made them feel about their lives. They prayed for the day they would die just so that they would finally be free from the clutches of the brick coffins.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

    Need custom essay sample written special for your assignment?

    Choose skilled expert on your subject and get original paper with free plagiarism report

    Order custom paper Without paying upfront

    The Truth in Child Labor in William Blake’s Two Versions of the Chimney Sweeper. (2022, Dec 20). Retrieved from

    We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

    Hi, my name is Amy 👋

    In case you can't find a relevant example, our professional writers are ready to help you write a unique paper. Just talk to our smart assistant Amy and she'll connect you with the best match.

    Get help with your paper