British Literature: Responses to Social Issues in Early British Literature

Topics: Poetry, Chimney, Chimneys Pages: 3 (990 words) Published: April 14, 2013
A handful of the works that our class covered in the past month addressed an assortment of social issues and made appeals to the public to take the initiative and do something about these mishaps. Thomas Hood’s “The Song of the Shirt” and Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” are both fitting examples of this. Both pieces implore the public to open their eyes to what is occurring around them either directly or indirectly.

“The Chimney Sweeper” and “The Song of the Shirt” both took place around the same time of the late 1700’s closer to the 1800’s. Due to this, they have the similar historical influences as well as comparable values and attitudes. Around this particular time period, there was the Industrial Revolution occurring as well as the war between Britain and France in 1794. While appalling working conditions already existed before the revolution, the revolution sent them into frenzy. Formerly poor working conditions in factories, mines, chimneys, and fields took a turn for the worse, spiraling downwards toward abysmal conditions.

Along with shocking working conditions, were the attitudes of society towards these particular conditions. Even with the obviously horrid work environments of long hours, low wages, and hazardous tasks, people were still sending their children off to be chimney sweeps or work in the mines. As stated in Blake’s later version of “The Chimney Sweeper”, the parents did not necessarily realize that they were quite possibly delivering their children to their potential graves by having them do these jobs. With the war occurring, among other factors, people were in constant need of the extra money to feed, clothe, and shelter their families which caused the children to have to work to help with costs.

The authors’ purposes in writing these poems are fairly obvious with the way that they call to attention the ghastly work environments that people are being forced to contend with. With Blake it is shining light on the deplorable...
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