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    "The Chimney Sweeper"


    Anissa Abdelkefi

    Number of posts : 3
    Registration date : 2007-05-01

    "The Chimney Sweeper"

    Post by Anissa Abdelkefi on Fri May 04, 2007 11:56 pm

    I- Read your poem "The Chimney Sweeper" and answer the following questions:
    1/ What does the poem portray?
    2/ How was the life of a chimney sweeper? Justify from the poem.
    3/ What do "coffins of black" symbolize?
    4/ In stanza four and five, William Blake is ironical as most of those children- who were forced to work- were under the age of seven and many no older than four. What were these children supposed to do?Justify.

    II- The following answers may be of some help to you.

    1/ "The Chimney Sweeper" focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a young orphan having to deal with the pressures of losing his parents and being forced to take part in child labor in order to live. The poem describes how a chimney sweeper boy copes with his and his fellows' miserable fate. His naive, innocent way of accepting child-labour as a God-given duty produces a strong ironical effect and reinforces the bitterness of Blake's implicit criticism. The life of a London chimney sweeper was disagreable and hard, and usually fatal. From before dawn until afternoon, the "climbing boys" as they were known, passed through the city's streets announcing their services with cries of "Sweep! Sweep!"

    2/ The answer to the second question is found in the first two lines of the poem. Here Blake describes the negative aspects of the boy's life and labour. He says: "When my mother died I was very young,/ And my father sold me while yet my tongue..." These boys suffer from personal misery and poverty. Their young age is painful. Their professional skill or task is quite demanding as they sweep. The words "sweep", "soot" suggest that black residue in chimneys are even found in the boys' beds. This poem is a cry of despair, pain, and suffering. The consequence being that these boys put up with their bitter fate and return to "business as usual". Ironically, the conclusion drawn in (6,4) is the moral which, after it has been implanted in their minds by society, helps them to sustain their self-respect and social value.

    3/ This question is open to several interpretations. "Coffins of black" symbolize the hopeless conditions of those martyrs of capitalism in eighteenth century London. They ore locked up in those conditions and cannot escape from them. they are blinded with how life can really be...

    4/ In stanza four and five, William Blake is ironical as most of those children -who were forced to work- were under the age of seven and many no older than four. These children were supposed to enjoy their childhood innocent time to the fullest. Yet they enter the realm of the world of experience and lose themselves in labour.The poem is a portrayal of the innocent acceptance of fate. But in the day we see these miserable chimney sweepers, blasted with chilling cold, wet to the skin, without shoes, or with only fragments of them, without stockings, who has no feelings of their sorrows!--You who have the hearts of men, and who have opportunities of seeing human misery, will contemplate the condition of these poor beings, and judge if this picture bears a genuine likeness.

    Answers are proposed by : Mrs Anissa Abdelkefi Najjar.

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