Blake's Roads To Redemption Essay

1619 words - 6 pages

In William Blake’s poems “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence and “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Experience, the reader is able to understand the viewpoints of children treated unfairly. The Songs of Innocence version of the poem, written in 1789, describes how a boy helps a fellow chimney sweeper find comfort despite their struggles. This boy then dreams about an angel that sets sweepers like him free and how they find happiness in their freedom. In his dream, the boy learns that if he will “be a good boy,” he will find salvation in God. The Songs of Experience version, written five years later, is about a boy that seems happy so his parents think they have not done any wrong to him. The boy’s parents are “gone up to the church to pray” while he is clothed in “the clothes of death” and taught to sing sorrowfully. Both poems allude to the religious aspect of the Romantic Period, leading to their theme of redemption. The theme of redemption is shown in the exploitation of children depicted in the poems, the use of symbolism throughout each, and the inevitable loss of innocence.
There is a clear issue of children exploitation in both of William Blake’s poems as it relates to the theme of redemption. In “The Chimney Sweeper” (Innocence), the strength of the desire for redemption shows how extreme the child exploitation must have been. In “The Chimney Sweeper” (Experience), the speaker depicts how his exploitation is related to his parents’ efforts to earn their redemption. England was rapidly developing between 1750 and 1820 due to the Industrial Revolution, strengthening the Romantic Era. During this time, there was an extreme shortage of labor force which required young children to work. Parents began to use their children as another source of income and allowed them to work excessive hours. Blake’s poems provide an example of the dangerous jobs children were assigned, some worse than chimney sweeping. Society was lacking the concern for children’s health, happiness, and overall well being. Parents and adults of our country today would be appalled by not only the number of hours children were put to labor, but the tasks they were assigned that were not appropriate for their age, size, or strength. In “The Chimney Sweeper” (Innocence), the speaker’s father “sold” him to be put to work and he was not even given time to grieve the death of his mother. He says “in soot I sleep,” implying that he is worked all day right up to his bedtime. His fellow chimney sweeper, Tom Dacre, had to have his head shaved unwillingly. In Tom’s dream about setting fellow sweepers free, an angel tells him to “be a good boy” and God will rescue him. The fact that this young boy dreams of he and his friends being rescued and finally experiencing happiness shows the level of child exploitation they were subjected to. For them, redemption was their hope of gaining freedom. Tom becomes “happy and warm” after learning that if does what he is supposed to God...

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