academic paper, Analysis of “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake, and Jack, Capitalism and alienation, Carl Marx, Dick, industrial revolution and literature, Joe, literary analysis, Marxist thought, Ned, Religion and alienation on William Blake's poem, the children rose in the dark, Theory of Alienation, verbal irony on William Blake Poem, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black, William Blake
Taking into consideration that the “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake was published in 1789 and that England was going through the Industrial Revolution; one can clearly perceive the social criticism expressed by the author.
“And so he was quiet, and that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight! That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.”
The passage encourages us to position more critically before the phenomenon of industrialization and mass production. Dick, Joe, Ned and Jack symbolize the people in general; common names for common people incarcerated by capitalism.
“And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he opened the coffins & set them all free; Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.”
Then, a divine entity comes to set the kids for free and they are finally able to experience childhood. Nonetheless, it is a dream. Even though the boys wake up and their hard work routine starts all over again, Tom was happy to keep sweeping chimneys because the “angel” advised him in his dream that if “all do their duty, they need not fear harm”. At this point, one can identify verbal irony in poem since the words said by the narrator are opposed to what sweeping chimneys and child exploitation really meant during the Industrial Revolution. Another interesting point, is the link between religious images such as the “angel” and mass alienation, which shows that the author probably adopted a Marxist position in response to the changing world of the Industrial Revolution. Such position is also another strong element used by the author in order to create irony in his poem.
“And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark, and got with our bags and our brushes to work.”
The end of the poem is actually very disturbing; the children “rose in the dark” which symbolizes how reduced their life perspectives were. In other words, the poem sets up an atmosphere characterized by helplessness, which leads the readers to think that inciting outrage was the mechanism that the author used to reach his goal of creating awareness of the problems of child exploitation and alienation from the self.