Chimney Sweeper by William Blake, Term Paper

Total Length: 1067 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: -2

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The boys can only achieve freedom in their dreams, because the reality of their situation is so hopeless. Dunn's boy worker works hard, but he is not consumed by his work, and he knows it is not a permanent, horrible situation.

Dunn's poem, on the other hand, shows another dark side of work. His narrator is a boy old enough to work in a factory, but still young enough to want to enjoy his summer vacation. He does not have to work, and that makes all the difference between the two poems. Dunn writes, "I quit before the summer was over, / exercised the prerogatives of my class / by playing ball all August / and spent the money I'd earned / on Barbara Winokur, who was beautiful" (Dunn). Blake's poem shows the dark desperation of work, while Dunn's poem shows the boredom and futility of work on an assembly line. Both works see labor as something difficult and demeaning, but they show two very different working classes, and that is the biggest difference in these two works.

One element of these two poems that might be overlooked is the ethics of young people working so hard. Even in "Hard Work," the narrator says he comes home sore from a hard day's work. Dunn writes, "When I came home at night my body / hurt with that righteous hurt / men have brought home for centuries, / the hurt that demands / food and solicitation, that makes men / separate, lost" (Dunn). Neither of these young men is afraid of hard work, but one has it thrust upon him without his choice, and the other chooses to work hard for a short time. The ethics of boys working this young was not considered in Blake's time, and children suffered because of this lack of ethics.
Dunn's narrator has more than hope for a better future; he has the support of society as well. The child sold into a life of chimney sweeping has no support or aid from society, they turn their back on him, and he suffers as a result. Comparing the two poems indicates that at least some of society has improved since Blake's time. Work is still hard, but using a child so abusively would not be tolerated in our society today, so ethically, work for the young has made some strides forward.

In conclusion, both of these poems look at what most people do for a majority of their lives - work and labor. Dunn's poem shows what it is like to labor at a low-paying job that is boring and demeaning, while Blake's poem looks at the worst kind of labor, the kind that is forced upon the poor and lowest classes of society. Work does not have to be something with "no opportunity" as Dunn notes, but when a person has no other choices in life, like the chimney sweep, then work is the very worst thing that can happen to a person, and it can even lead to their death.


Blake, William. "The Chimney Sweeper." 2007. 29 Jan.….....

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