The Chimney Sweeper

Topics: Chimney sweep, Chimney, Chimneys Pages: 3 (812 words) Published: May 13, 2011
The Chimney Sweeper

Blake uses many literary devices to portray the hopeless life of the young chimney sweeps.


William Blake masterfully uses many literary devices to portray the hopeless life of a young chimney sweep in his poem “The Chimney Sweeper”. The poem has a young, nameless first person narrator which gives the poem a sense of youthful innocence and anonymity that is in direct contradiction to the horrible conditions they suffer. Most of the poem has dark tones that is punctuated by a happy dream of freedom and joy with his true father his creator. The poem ends with a bleak and almost sinister twist of irony that leaves the reader feeling sorrow and shame for the chimney sweepers.

Irony is one of the most powerful literary devices employed by Blake. It is seen running through the poem starting with the first lines. The boy’s mother died and his father sold him before he could “cry ‘weep ’weep ’weep. We don’t know why the boy was sold but we could assume that the father wanted to give the boy more opportunity than he could afford to give. This is extremely ironic because the boy is sold into servitude in deplorable, deathly conditions. More irony is evident in the last lines of the poem where the narrator speaks of the sweeper doing their duty to avoid harm. Children should only have the duty of being happy children, not pleasing their masters and working terrible jobs like slaves. Tom’s dream can also be ironic because the angel frees them but if the children really were freed from their lot in life they would either be dead or orphans. Another ironic situation in the poem is in its religious contexts. In Toms dream he is told by the angel that if he is good and does his work God will be his father. As Christians, we are taught that God is everyone’s Father but it has an irony to it because these children were fatherless orphans.

The use of vivid imagery also helps Blake express the sweeps...

Cited: Blake, William, “The Chimney Sweeper” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 6th Compact ed. New York: 441. Print
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