Explorations of Childhood and Duty in “The Chimney Sweeper” and “Casabianca”

Explorations of Childhood and Duty in “The Chimney Sweeper” and “Casabianca”

Length: 1792 words (5.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Although Blake wrote “The Chimney Sweeper” featured in Songs of Innocence before Felicia Hemans was ever born, issues relevant to first-generation Romantic authors still pervaded the literary scene when second-generation authors like Hemans finally took the stage. “Casabianca,” published in 1826, and “The Chimney Sweeper,” published in 1789, both address a central question: What does it mean to be a child? Both poems examine the duties that children have to society as a whole. While there is an overriding sense of an allegiance to duty in both poems, the poems’ situational irony complicates the relationship between children and responsibility. The final line of “The Chimney Sweeper” best demonstrates this complicated relationship. The speaker of “The Chimney Sweeper” concludes by saying, “So if all do their duty they need not fear harm” (24). However, we as readers have reason to question the validity of the speaker’s promise since the poem seems to suggest that relief from hardship only comes through death. Through their language, choice of perspective, situational irony, and other features, “The Chimney Sweeper” and “Casabianca” grapple with the notion of childhood in order to clarify the complicated relationship between children and duty in society.
The poems’ structures appeal to the youth around whom they centered. Each poem has end-rhyming quatrains, which create a nursery rhymesque feel. Both poems have a more or less regular rhythm, which adds to the happy feeling created by the rhyme. However, it is a common occurrence for the heavy content to contrast with the poems’ structure. In order to better understand both poems, it is important to examine why the authors would have chosen to use a structure that contr...


... middle of paper ...


... fair to say that both poems are proponents of both duty and childhood because of their youthful structure and irony. However, each poem is more heavily weighted towards one allegiance or another. Hemans does show remorse for Casabianca’s untimely death, but her choice to present the story from the third person perspective proves that her allegiance is more towards the fulfillment of duty to family and country than the fulfillment of childhood. On the contrary, Blake’s choice to give his child character a first person voice empowers his protagonist and supports the idea that Blake was a bigger proponent of childhood than of duty. Both poems reveal the complicated nature of this issue during the Romantic period, and each poem counters the other to give them both a more multidimensional perspective on the consequences and benefits of preserving childhood and duty.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Chimney Sweeper: Dispair Essay

- Throughout the Industrial Revolution in England in the 18th century, many children were forced to work against their own will, to support the growing need for labor in the demanding economy. William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper,” meticulously portrays the mindsets of two individuals obligated to carry out these societal expectations of working at a very young age. However, contrary to societies opinion on harmful child labor, Blake uses irony and sarcasm to convey his critical allegation of the wrongdoings of the church and society on their lack of effort to intervene and put an end to the detrimental job of adolescent chimney sweeping....   [tags: William Blake, the chimney sweeper]

Better Essays
1217 words (3.5 pages)

Child Labor Exposed in The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake Essay examples

- In the poem, The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake (1789), the poet attempts to shine a light on the social injustice inflicted upon children by appealing to the reader’s conscience in order to free them from their nightmare existence. He uses a child’s voice as the vehicle to deliver his message in order to draw attention to the injustice of forced child labor. The speaker is a young boy whose mother has passed away. He has no time to properly grieve because his father has sold him into a life of filth and despair....   [tags: The Chimney Sweeper]

Better Essays
1212 words (3.5 pages)

The Chimney Sweeper By William Blake Essay

- Doing the household chores isn’t even difficult task to accomplish. Children your age have had to do much more strenuous chores, especially back in the late 18th century. “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake is a prime example of this. Blake’s poem talks about the hardships that come with working in the chimney’s and the mindsets of the young persons working in them. Things like chores should be very trivial compared to the hardships and tasks the subjects of William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” face....   [tags: Chimney sweep, Chimney, Chimneys, Home]

Better Essays
772 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper

- William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper, written in 1789, tells the story of what happened to many young boys during this time period. Often, boys as young as four and five were sold for the soul purpose of cleaning chimneys because of their small size. These children were exploited and lived a meager existence that was socially acceptable at the time. Blake voices the evils of this acceptance through point of view, symbolism, and his startling irony.      Blake expresses his poem in first person, as a young chimney sweeper....   [tags: William Blake Chimney Sweeper Essays]

Better Essays
675 words (1.9 pages)

The Chimney Sweeper And Barbie Doll : An Unlikely Pair Essay

- The Chimney Sweeper and the Barbie Doll: An Unlikely Pair At first glance, the poems The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake, and Barbie Doll, by Marge Piercy appear to have no tangible similarities. However, upon further analysis and interpretation, they can be seen as somewhat akin. In these two poems, the harsh treatment of children, the use of imagery, and children’s self-image in the poems are comparable. The differences between the two poems include the time period in which they were written, the background of the characters, and the characters’ reactions to the problems that they are faced with....   [tags: Chimney sweep, Chimney, Fashion doll, Childhood]

Better Essays
1428 words (4.1 pages)

William Blake 's The Chimney Sweeper And London Essay

- William Blake explores the thematic implications of industrial labour in eighteenth century London in relation to the moral ethics of responsibility pertaining specifically to child labour. In his poems, “The Chimney Sweeper” and “London”, Blake uses images of childhood anguish caused by being forced into the laboring world in order to predicate the comfort of the higher classes on the suffering of others. This pattern of images suggests that all classes of society are corrupted through industrial labour and condemns those in power who allow for the subjugation of children to continue....   [tags: Chimney sweep, Chimney, Mary Poppins, Childhood]

Better Essays
1454 words (4.2 pages)

William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper Essay

- William Blake’s The Chimney Sweeper            William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” was mainly about the possibilities of both hope and faith. Although the poem’s connotation is that of a very dark and depressed nature, the religious imagery Blake uses indicates that the sweeps will have a brighter future in eternity.      In lines 4 – 8 when Blake writes, “There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved: so I said ‘Hush, Tom. never mind it, for when your head’s bare You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’ These lines symbolize faith in the biblical sense....   [tags: William Blake Chimney Sweeper Poem Essays]

Better Essays
911 words (2.6 pages)

The Chimney Sweeper By William Blake Essays

- The Chimney Sweeper “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake was set in a time around the French Revolution. It begins when a little boy, named Tom, around the age of five or six has a dream. With his mother diseased, his father sells him to what I believe to be a chimney sweep business. Tom has a dream all the children will be released and then if they do what they’re told will be taken care of by God. The poem shows the hardship that the children in that time era face every day. In William Blake’s, “The Chimney Sweeper”, he uses imagery, diction, and figurative speech to show the innocence and naivety of children....   [tags: Chimney sweep, Chimney, Chimneys]

Better Essays
749 words (2.1 pages)

Social Criticism in Blake's Chimney Sweeper and Hayden's Monet's Waterlilies

- Social Criticism in Blake's Chimney Sweeper and Hayden's Monet's Waterlilies      The late eighteenth century in England children as young as five years of age were bought, sold, and traded into a life that was completely at the mercy of their owner. These were children without a childhood. Almost two hundred years later America followed suit with this behavior as black Americans were forced to sit in the back of buses, use separate facilities, and attend different schools. The corruption of these contrasting societies is vividly depicted in William Blake's "The Chimney Sweeper" and Robert Hayden's "Monet's Waterlilies", respectively....   [tags: Blake Chimney Sweeper Essays]

Better Essays
1277 words (3.6 pages)

Childhood in Robert Frost's Birchess and William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper

- Childhood in Robert Frost's Birchess and William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper Robert Frost's view of childhood is much different than that of William Blake, as expressed in their respective poems, "Birches" and "The Chimney Sweeper". Living in the late seventeenth century, Blake saw some hard times; and as such, paints a very non-romantic picture of childhood. Frost, however, sees things differently. The result is two glaringly different poems that goes to prove how very different people are. Blake's portrayal of childhood is far from happy....   [tags: Childhood Blake Birchess Chimney Frost Essays]

Better Essays
1311 words (3.7 pages)