23 September 2014
Ambiguity of Youth; A Literary Analysis of Themes within “The Chimney Sweeper”
In modern times childhood is perceived as moments of fun and happiness, being carefree and joyous, with little responsibility or struggle. William Blake was born during the Industrial Revolution which, in part, helped to shape the Romantic Era that is the foundation of his literary works. Through his writings you see a vast contrast in modern day childhood reality versus the reality of childhood set in the Romantic Era and Industrial Revolution. One of Blake’s literary works that fully illustrates this contrast is “The Chimney Sweeper”, penned in 1789 during the height of the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the Romantic Era. In “The Chimney Sweeper” Blake uses imagery, symbolism, and biblical illusion to depict a childhood not common to modern-day illusions, but that of the reality of a childhood in the Industrial Revolution. Through these literary techniques Blake shows the true oppressive nature of the life of a chimney sweep child. From the beginning of this poem Blake uses imagery rampantly. Colors are used to give the reader a mental image of what a chimney sweep child might look like. In line 8, for example, the color white is used to depict the color of the boy’s hair after a day of work. “You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair”. Here, Blake gives the idea that this is a child with blonde hair that has been made to look black, like soot. In lines 5 through 7 Blake had already depicted that these children were shaved bald to keep the soot from gathering in their hair, therefore, throughout these four lines of passage we are given a clear picture of what these boys would have looked like. Another form of imagery used by Blake shows us an idea of why a child might be subjected to this type of labor. In the first passage Blake writes “When my mother died I was very young, / And my father sold
Cited: Blake, William. “The Chimney Sweeper.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Myer. 10th ed. Boston: BedfordSt. Martin’s, 2013. 912-913. Print.