Blake focuses on different aspects of a chimney sweeper’s life in his “The Chimney Sweeper” poems. In the first one, he uses anecdotes and imagery to emphasize the work that the sweepers do, and to show the difference between the dirty work and heaven. In the second one, he uses dialogue and metaphors to show a child’s point of view. Both poems convey similar information, but each leaves the reader with a different understanding of the situation.
The first poem focuses on using anecdotes and imagery to convince the reader that the life of a chimney sweeper can be joyful. By using common names such as “Tom”, “Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack” and describing how the chimney sweepers live, Blake uses an anecdote to help build a connection with the people he is talking about. He also uses great imagery, such as “coffins of black” and “green plain, leaping, laughing they run” to show the difference between their work and heaven. He seems to be describing a dream that Tom has, that encourages him to keep sweeping since he will be rewarded in heaven, even though his life is terrible. Black coffins also seems to imply that many of the children are dying due to the soot they inhale.
The second poem uses lots of dialogue to show a conversation between a man and a child who appears to be crying. The entire poem is a conversation, with a child telling the man why he is so sad, and his life’s story. The words “They are both gone up to the church to pray.” tell us, for example, that the child is an orphan. The dialogue makes the story seem more believable, and gives the reader more freedom to interpret, since it is word for word what the child said. Whatever interpretation the reader has, is more powerful because they had to come up with it. This poem also uses metaphors such as “the clothes of death” and “notes of woe” that show how close many of these chimney sweepers are to death. Such drastic comparisons leave an impression in the reader’s mind of what fate eventually befalls young children.
Blake is criticizing the exploitation of children to sweep chimneys, and is using religious elements to make the reader feel even worse for the kids. He does this in two different poems by using literary elements like metaphors, dialogue, anecdotes, and imagery. He is argue for a better future for poor children though his writing.