Innocence lost in William Blake's "The Chimney Sweeper"

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, September 1996

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William Blake's "The Chimney Sweeper" offers a graphic portrayal of a particular cultural aspect of England in the 1790s. By examining my interactions with the poem, I will attempt to analyse and contrast my own belief system against that which is presented in the text.

Blake's poem was initially very striking to me. While reading the first stanza, I was shocked and horrified by the imagery presented by the young narrator. I felt compelled to cry for the poor boy, and then became angry at his father for placing him in such a situation. In the second and third stanzas, I empathized with 'little Tom Darce' and pictured how frightened he must have been because of his nightmare; he seemed to be in great need of care and love, both of which I wished I could provide him. The imagery in the fourth and fifth paragraphs struck me as bright, beautiful and very innocent, thus causing me to wish that all the boys could live in such a wonderful environment.

My reaction to the final stanza was a sense of distress; the boys had nothing to hope for, but were forced to perform a task which would eventually kill them. After reading the poem I was left with several impressions in my mind. The young and innocent portrayal of the narrator seemed to be a powerful influence on my emotional reactions to the poem. I was left with a sense of helplessness and frustration that I was not able to help the boys out of their oppressed state, and because I possess some knowledge of this period of history and culture, I know that the events described in the poem actually took place, and thus the poem becomes even more emotionally moving. It is the value system of the...