William Blake's poetry was considered to be controversial during his time. He wanted people to question their actions as being right or wrong. He did this by setting up clashes between people's ideologies and value systems in his poem. In the poem, "The Chimney Sweeper" from the Songs of Innocence, he gives us an example of where we can see his use of such poetic techniques and where he sets up such clashes. By examining his interactions within this poem, I will attempt to analyze and contrast my own belief system with what is presented in the poem. .
In the poem, "The Chimney Sweeper," Blake employs the persona of a small boy, Tom Dacre. This gives the boy the persona of being an individual. He is no longer just another young chimneysweeper; he has a name, feelings and emotions. These are all things which are unrecognized by the upper-class. By employing the persona of a young chimneysweeper, Blake has set up a clash between ideologies and value systems. He is trying to say that Tom Dacre is not just another face in the crowd; he is a human being and not just a means to an end for the upper-class. The ideology of children being a way of making money is now confronted with the fact that these are people who deserve dignity and rights.
The theme of individuality is also shown when he states, "There's little Tom Dacre who cried when his head/That curl"d like a lambs back was shav"d" (5-6). This .
shows that Blake is now focusing on Tom's loss of individuality, whereas by employing him as the persona, he was demonstrating the individuality he deserved. This loss of individuality is due to his position in life, as he had to unwillingly get his head shaved to prevent it from becoming sooty. Had he been the child of wealthy upper-class parents, this would not have been necessary. The image of the lamb is a symbol of new life and, the use of the lamb in the simile that compares Tom's hair with that of the fleece of the lamb, reinforces Blake's contention that poor people are exploited by others and lose their individuality as a result.