The Chimney Sweeper

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Mathew
English 102-37

The Chimney Sweeper

In the British Industrial Revolution child labor was next to free. Mothers were killing their bastard children in horrific ways and there were orphans by the thousands. In the poem The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake, I noticed the story talked of the life and conditions of orphans during this era. So I researched more about why they had to live like that. I Found that their country was going through the industrial revolution, families sold their kids to work in some of the worst conditions, like chimney sweeping, one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs, and why it was so dangerous. The poem The Chimney Sweeper can be interpreted as a boy that is so depressed that he thinks about ending his life until he dreams of heaven to give him new hope. After doing some research on the child labor that was happening in this time, it shows how large of a scale this child labor was.

It wasn’t uncommon for families to put their child up for adoption. They couldn’t afford children, however there also wasn’t enough money in the orphanage to feed them either. Orphans were used in every way possible, especially for labor in mills, mines, foundries, and chimney sweeps. These orphans were working twelve hour days, usually starting at the age of four sometimes earlier. In The Chimney Sweeper, the main character knew his mom died and his dad abandoned him when he says, “Father sold me while yet my tongue could scarcely cry.” Although the boy was very young, he only knows how to work and survive because that’s how he has lived his whole life.

In the story Tom Dacre’s dreams he sees thousands of sweepers, “were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black.” This gave the impression they were coated in soot and dying from the conditions while they were in their death beds. However, after doing some research, I found that “coffins of black” is a term William Blake used to describe the tiny chimney flues that the



Cited: Holden, Robert . “Orphans of History—The Forgotten Children of the First Fleet.” World Socialist Web Site. 20 February 2001. Sun. 13 February 2011. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/feb2001/orph-f20.shtml.

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