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Child labor, by nature, is harsh and extremely harsh in chimney sweeping. Chimney sweeping was a job that required children in order to get the work done (Child Labor). In his poem, Blake’s narrator says “… my father sold me while yet my tongue/ could scarcely cry “ ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!” (Blake 2-3). This shows that when he was put into work, he was a young child just abandoned by his father. Being sold into work is the exact same thing as slavery, which is very harsh. In 1788, there were some laws made so the conditions that they lived in would be better. These laws were never really put into effect (Children and Chimneys). In his poem, Blake shows the conditions that they lived in. In his first stanza, Blake’s narrator says, “So your chimneys I sweep and in soot I sleep” (Blake 4). This states that the boy did work for people and he had to sleep in soot. The harshness in child labor can have many effects on children, one of them is having what is most important to them stolen.
A child is the most innocent human on Earth. But when that innocence is stolen, the
child is forced to grow up and see the world for what it really is. Blake shows this situation with
a child named Tom. Tom was sold into chimney sweeping as a young child. Before he is even
put into work, “[his hair] curled like a lamb’s back” ( Blake 6). A lamb in literature is often seen
as a symbol of innocence. Blake uses these words to express how innocent Tom is. When Tom
is put into work his head, “was shaved… for when [his] head’s bare/… soot could not spoil [his]
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The boys have their hair shaved off so that the soot cannot spoil them. The work still spoils
them, but because they cannot see it, they are still under the impression that they have innocence.
This happens to every child in this work, every single one had their innocence stolen from them.
While having innocence stolen, there is another effect that is caused by child labor and it is much
Freedom is sought by every creature on Earth. But sometimes, someone may think that
the only way to have freedom is to die. Blake’s character Tom thinks this. Tom has a dream
“that thousands of sweepers…/ were all locked up in coffins of black” (Blake 11-12). These
coffins closely resemble chimneys. Coffins and chimneys are both boxed in and are dark. In this
poem, both of them hold chimney sweepers in them. But the coffin is a symbol of death. Blake
uses this comparison to show that this work will end up being the death of these boys. Then, in
Tom’s dream, “…an angel who had a bright key/…opened the coffins and set them all free”
(Blake 13-14). All of the boys are happy and free running around in a place that seems happy
and perfect. The place described seems to be heaven, and the only way to enter heaven is by
death. The angel freed them by killing them and allowing them into heaven and freedom.
When Tom wakes up, he is happy and cheerful because he knows that he will find freedom, but
it lies in death. Anyone who thinks that freedom can only be found in death has had a cruel life that messes with their minds. And the child labor forces these children to think that.
In the poem “The Chimney Sweeper”, Blake shows the wrongfulness in child labor and its effects on children. He does this by showing the harshness of it, the innocence it steals, and the freedom that can only be found in death. Child labor goes on even today and it has the same effects. Blake wants the world to see child labor for what it is. His desires suggest that every human should open their eyes and fix what is being done so that children can have a childhood.