ENGL 1102 Final Essay
December 3, 2010
The Masterpiece From William Blake
The Romantic era of literature involved very subjective, personal, emotional, and imaginative writing. In William Blake’s poem “The Chimney Sweeper”, part of his collection from Songs of Innocence, a young boy gives readers some insight into what life was like for people in his line of work. During the late 1700’s and into the early 1800’s, a person’s well-being was determined by the social class into which they were born. The children could not choose what social class they were born into. Therefore, they adjusted accordingly in their life. For the young boy, he is faced with numerous struggles, however, he remains convinced that his life after death will be much better. Blake wrote about injustices throughout the world, yet in “The Chimney Sweeper”, the injustice of child labor had not been touched. For an orphan, like the child, life was all about survival. Although industry was becoming a more important part of the nation’s economy and in the setting of the story, England was still largely dependent on the feudal system in which powerful feudal lords ruled everyone and everything. No matter what, the young boy was never going to surpass the limits of his social class. Even worse for him, he had start working at a young age once his parents died. Blake places further meaning on to this fact by using metaphors, repetition, alliteration, and other literary devices throughout the poem. Nevertheless, Blake sufficiently cracks into the pathos of the audience, especially in the romantic era, in his epic poem “The Chimney Sweeper.”
In the first two lines, Blake gives us an image of an anguished child in a state of agony or even in a state of corruption. The color black seems to be very important because it is used to represent sin against innocence, the color of the white snow. Accordingly, this is the social state in which the country was facing. The government was corrupt, and as result, much of society was in agony. The Romantic era in which Blake wrote, involved nearly all of the French Revolution. Basically, the revolution was a war of the social classes. The middle class believed that in order to gain equality they had to get rid of the privileges that were stopping the progress of their rise in society. To do this they had to gain power within the government and make changes, such as, improving the tax system, creating a fair system of production where profits went to the producer, improving the whole economic system of the government, and plus many more. The revolution was a fight for equality; it was not a rebellion against poverty. Many of the French people had learned to deal with poverty for they had been living in scarceness for centuries. Blake’s story about the boy creates a since of compassion for a young child who is caught up in all the mess. Nevertheless, the audience is swept into the heart of the boy because although his life is dim, his soul continues to shine.
Also in the first stanza, third line, Blake shows the same child weeping, when he really means to say sweeping, because in reality the child is grieving. The use of this metonymy begins the initiation into the true meaning behind the poem, which is a comparison to the society of France during the French Revolution. Although the people were torn and battered inside, they continued to work because they had no other choice. For example, during the Reign of Terror, if anyone were to speak out against the dictatorship of Maximilien Robespierre, they would have been immediately eliminated. Blake, who was a closet genius, chose to speak out in a different light, by using multiple meanings in his poems to describe the conditions that he and the rest of France faced during the Romantic era. Regardless of the literary technique, Blake truly created a masterpiece in his story of the chimney boy.
In the second stanza, the child is pictured in a...