+ All Chimney Sweeper Essays:
- Industrial Revolution
- The Language of Protest in Shakespeare, Blake, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, and Rich: Exterior vs. Interior Life
- The Assassin
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Movie Review: Ma Vie En Rose
- Between the Borderline of Mexico and The United States
- Carbon Monoxide
- Termites: Helping Our Ecosystems
- How Successfully Do Walton's Letters Introduce the Central Themes and Concerns of the Novel "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley?
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- Industrialization and Utilitarianism in Dickens' Hard Times
- A Transitional Period of the Roaring 20's in The Great Gatsby
- Victorian Societies' Terrible Treatment of Poor Children in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist
- Don't Disrupt Mother Nature
- "As Due by Many Titles I Resign My Self to Thee, O God " (Donne) What Do You See as the Most Interesting or Challenging Aspects of Therelationship Between the Human and Divine in the Texts Jane Eyre' and the Poetry of John Donne?
- Images, Imagery, Symbols, and Symbolism in Macbeth
- Walt Disney's Three Little Pigs Help Children's Cognitive, Language, and Moral Development
- World War II and Immigration
- From W.S. by L.P. Hartley
- Air Pollution
- Cremation Business Plan
- An Analysis of 'The Drover's Wife'
- Slavery Vs Indentureship in the caribbean
- Acid Precipitation
- Cezanne, Lowry and Landscapes
- The Notion of Duality of the Human Soul in William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Catal Huyuk an Architecture Perspective
- Nightfather by Carl Friedman
- Pearl Harbor
- Foreign Object Damage Prevention and Management in the Deployed Environment
- Comparing Joyce’s Ulysses and T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
- How Did Life on Earth Begin
- The Theme of Loneliness in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
- Air Pollution, Smog, Acid Rain, the Greenhouse Effect, and Ozone Depletion
- The Chinese Cultural Revolution
- Ambiguity in Language
- Thomson Highway's The Rez Sisters
- Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Jean Valjean
- Blake's Portrayal of Creation in Songs of Innocence and Experience
- The Great Gatsby - Eden Imagery
- Science Fari Final Report for Oven Baked Ice Cream
- The Homeless Man
- Personal Narrative- Christmas Cookies
- The Poems of William Blake
- Life Cycle Analysis for Brick
- Positive and Negative Effects of Industrial Revolution
- Cultural Differences Between Poland and England
- Frank Lloyd Wright
- Do Ahmadis Deserve to Live in Pakistan?
- Women and Slavery
- How Charlotte Bronte Creates Sympathy for Jane in the First Two Chapters of the Novel
- E.E. Cummings and his Life as a Poet
- Comparison Between â€œLondonâ€ by William Blake and â€œComposed Upon Westminster Bridgeâ€ by William Wordsworth
- Analysis of the X-Files Episode: Tooms
- The Condition of Youth in Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience
- Critical Analysis the Welsh Hill Country
- Behind Mud Walls Paper
- Air and Water Pollutants
- Graduation Speech
- Santa Claus Does Exist
- A Visit to Cades Cove
- The Mi’kmaq Way of Life
- Child Labor and England’s Industrial Revolution
- Ayn Rand's Anthem
- Failure and Destruction of a Romantic Ideal in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
- Germanic Peoples and English Settlers
- Discuss the phrase “wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business”
- The Importance of the First World War in Achieving Votes for Women in 1918
- The Roman Army Pax Romana
- Guide to Using Prediction in Pokemon
- Dylan Thomas
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- Benjamin Franklin
- My Dream Place
If you've ever owned a chimney, you know that it can get pretty dirty. In addition to the ash that's left in the fireplace, there's a whole lot of soot that gets stuck on the inside of the chimney that you can't see unless you climb up in there with a flashlight. Messy. Unfortunately, that stuff has to get cleaned, or you could have a serious problem. As in, a giant fire that consumes your house. Not good.
While nowadays we have easier ways of doing this dirty job, in the wayback days (as in 200 years ago) somebody used to climb up the chimney and scrub-a-dub-dub all that soot. It was a dirty job, worthy of Mike Rowe's full attention. And the thing is, not just anybody could do it.
See, you had to be really small to fit up in the chimney, so they used to give the task to kiddos—some as young as four or five years old. Most of the children engaged in the profession were orphans and paupers, and they were apprenticed to somebody known as a master-sweep, who was their boss and also in charge of taking care of them.
Chimney sweeping was a nasty business, and the children who worked as chimney sweepers didn't bathe very often (usually just once a week), which means they were probably often covered in soot and looked, um, not their best.
The job was also dangerous. Children could get stuck and suffocate (which did happen), or get burned and bruised on a regular basis. In addition, chimney sweeps often developed what became known as soot wart, a form of cancer related to prolonged exposure to the carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) from the nasty black stuff. In other words, this was not your morning paper route. This was a dangerous job, given to society's most vulnerable. Are your injustice bells ringing?
William Blake's certainly were. The dicey dangers and widespread injustice of the chimney-sweeping profession really stuck in his craw, so much so that he wrote not one, but two poems called "The Chimney Sweeper."
The first poem (the one we're discussing here) was published in 1789 in a volume called Songs of Innocence. These little poems were beautifully illustrated (this is the first of Blake's so-called Illuminated Books) and took children and the joys of childhood innocence as their subject. As you've probably guessed by now, many of the poems in Songs of Innocence, like "The Chimney Sweeper," are about the ways in which childhood innocence is destroyed, taken away, or ruined by mean old adults.
For Blake, innocence is, in many ways, a total joke. It doesn't exist, because it's always tainted by the world of experience—chimney-sweeping, death, poverty, etc. So, in 1793, a few years after he published Songs of Innocence, he decided to publish another version, with a ton of poems added, including the second "The Chimney Sweeper."
And this time, he changed the title toSongs of Innocence and Experience, Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. While the poems in the "Experience" portion of the book tend to be darker, many of the poems in the "Innocence" part are pretty bleak as well.
In other words, this is not your Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins variety of chimney sweeper. There will be no Chim Chim Cher-ee-ing today. Sorry, Shmoopers.
What does a five-year-old chimney sweep in 18th-century England have to do with you? More than you might think. Child labor may be a relatively small problem in the United States today—thankfully, there are a few laws that have something to say about that— but it's still a Big Problem around the world.
According to UNICEF, 150 million kids are engaged in child labor in developing countries, where laws against kids working are often less strict, or even nonexistent (source). Sometimes they work in the family business or sell things on the streets, sometimes they work under horrible conditions for little pay in factories. Sometimes, they're just forced to beg for cash, and then hand it over to their shady bosses for pennies in exchange.
Sure, there aren't many children out there sweeping chimneys anymore, but there are still lots of places in the world where children work long hours and encounter dangerous health risks. Like Blake's chimney sweeper, these kiddos are forced to grow up too soon. They're not even given a chance at innocence because experience keeps getting in the way. Seriously, Shmoopers, it's kind of hard not to care.