Ap Chimney Sweeper Essay

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Unformatted text preview: 1 Mrs. Snyder AP Language and Composition 15 October 2012 The Chimney Sweeper A homonym is two words or phrases that are spelled the same way and pronounced the same way, but have two very different meanings. It is a unique ability to perfect using two contrasting items and yet call them the same name, however William Blake is able to use this technique in two of his poems. In his poems, The Chimney Sweeper, Blake utilizes the same title for two contrasting pieces. Though both poems share the same name, one expresses a hopeful tone, while the other conveys a somber, depressing tone. In 1789, Blake wrote the first poem entitled The Chimney Sweeper. This poem has a simple AABB rhyme scheme with short phrases that suggest a hopeful outlook on a typically depressing job. The job of a chimney sweep is dangerous and requires the work of young children who are able to fit into very confined spaces. The boys dread the work and often have nightmares about the bad things that could happen to them on the job. In the first stanza, a young boy, the speaker named Tom, describes how he is so young that he is barely capable of speech. Tom tells the readers about a dream where an angel unlocks the chimneysweepers from a coffin, representing a chimney, and the boys become clean and pure again. No longer afraid, Tom awakens from the dream with hope that he will go to heaven and be with God, so long as he behaves. Blake conveys this happy and hopeful tone through similes, alliterations, and allusions to God. The figurative language used in line 12, where Blake colors the coffins black, symbolizes the soot that the young workers are covered in after sweeping the chimneys. Symbolizing darkness versus light, the reality of 2 the boy’s life is dark and sad, but his future in heaven is bright and cheerful. Finally, this first addition of The Chimney Sweeper is longer than the second version. This represents the stream of thoughts that would progress through Tom’s mind in his dreams, blissful and content thoughts that allow him to struggle through life in the hope of achieving a glorious afterlife. Only five years later in 1794, Blake writes another poem entitled The Chimney Sweeper, however this poem is much different from the first version. This poem takes on a more somber and serious tone, describing heaven as a misery on earth rather than a safe haven after death. Showing a small boy weeping, the poem brings the audience into the boy’s mind and allows them to experience the hollowness and neglect that the boy feels because he is left to do dangerous work while his parents go off to church. The readers sympathize for the young boy as he describes himself as a happy, singing boy, knowing that he is actually trapped in a horrific job. Also, the boy questions how a God could make this miserable heaven on earth if he truly loves his creation. This shows a more questioning and serious tone as compared to the first version of the poem, which praises God and thanks him for the promise of a beautiful afterlife. Thus, the second version of The Chimney Sweeper is a more melancholy view on the same topic. Though both poems are very different, they do share some common elements. Similarly to the first poem, the later version alludes to God and symbolizes chimney sweeping as a sinister job. A young boy is featured in both pieces and is quoted testifying to the awful conditions of a chimney sweeper. Additionally, in the 1794 poem, the boy states that he is clothed in death, symbolizing the filth and grime that he is covered in from sweeping. Both poems share a simple AABB rhyme scheme and talk about the dirty work of 3 young chimney sweepers in the eighteenth century. Lastly, both poems convey the true pain and sadness that young boys feel as they are shipped off to do grueling and dangerous work away from their families. Due to the different frame of mind and various time periods, the two poems entitled The Chimney Sweeper written by William Blake describe contrasting views on the topic of young boys sweeping chimneys in the late 1700’s. Though they have the same title, these two poems share extremely different meanings; similar to the way a homonym describes the same word with two different connotations. A homonym is a simple tool that is able to use the same phrase in two radically contrasting ways, a unique and interesting idiosyncrasy. ...
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In the final stanza of the first poem it is clear that the children don’t see their own

 victimization in the labor they perform. They stay hopeful throughout all situations hoping for a better (after)life, k

eeping them “happy & warm”. On the other hand it can

also be seen as the way of the church & superiors to oppress the working-class by them making the children believe they will eventually be rewarded for their unquestioning obedience, and the children gullibly accepting it as a truth. In the second poem Blake is more focused on the natural nature of children and the

hypocrisy of the church the monarchy and the parents. “A little black thing among the snow” em


es again how the children’s childhood is

taken or polluted for the comfort to others through imagery and symbolism. Imagery is displayed in the poem as the black amongst all the pure white snow. And the symbolism in the irregularity of black disturbing the image of all the white. This can be interpreted as the unjust and cruelty done to a small part of innocent children and so many other lives entirely untouched and unaffected. It can also be concluded from the diction- using words like: up, think, praise and make up- that the child/narrator depicts the parents, church and monarchy to be very

hypocritical. Hypocritical, because they don’t lay the blame by themselves or anyone for that matter even though they are the cause of the children’s misery. And just like the first

poem it mentions the good attitude and natural ability of children to have fun in the  worst of times. In the second stanza it says that as the child was naturally positive they

specifically had to teach him the “notes of woe”.

 However, in this poem it is evident that, because t

he child is” happy & dance & sing”,

 people think that they have done no wrong, that the children have not been wronged, or that at least they do not feel like they have been wronged. Lastly, William Blake as well as the narrator, the child, expresses a lot of anger in this

second poem. The children being “clothed in the clothes of death” by their parents is

Blake blaming the parents of sentencing their children to a young death and misery because of the work they will be forced to do. And again, as in the first poem he expresses his anger towards the monarchy and church for guaranteeing heaven if the people suffer enough in this life. Only the difference lies in the sarcasm or irony being harsher in the second poem because of the already stated hypocrisy and the possibility that the hopeful tone in the first poem can be intended to be true.


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