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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Document length: 863 words

Write a critical analysis of 'The Chimney Sweeper' and 'The Little Black Boy' looking for points of contrast and comparison between the poems.

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Introduction

Write a critical analysis of 'The Chimney Sweeper' and 'The Little Black Boy' looking for points of contrast and comparison between the poems. It is possible to call Blake a 'Social Observer' who was an eidetic visionary of the social injustices of his time. It is clear that there is a common link between the poems, 'The Chimney Sweeper' and 'The Little Black Boy' - Blake had an emotional response to the inhumane use of child labour in those days of heightened industrialism; which also raised many moral dilemmas for the people of his era, as it does today. Both poems consist of a child speaking and both convey parallel conditions of social sin. The poems raise religious questions of the existence of an all loving God. In 'The Little Black Boy', Blake is not suggesting that God is evil; instead he is suggesting that God treats people differently because black people go through a harder life.

Middle

This can be seen in the quote, "the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, He'd have God as his father & never want joy." This draws our attention to the fact that they have been brainwashed into conditional love, which the use of religion has taught them - if they are good then they will go to heaven. Blake saw this as taking advantage of a vulnerable child, and raised awareness of the injustice that society proposed on young, innocent boys through his poetry. One critic said that "The Little Black Boy" was written in iambic pentameter; which is the white man's style of writing. This could be supported, because the steady iambic pace could suggest a child-like speech to the poem, therefore indicating that the little black boy has learnt this off by heart. Other critics have concluded from the final stanza that the "black boy [is] just a shadow of the white."

Conclusion

In "The Little Black Boy", Blake refers to the little white boy's soul being as "white as an angel". This is not necessarily something positive - he perceives Angels with such scepticism that the same can be said for the little white boy. Both poems envisage the idea of liberation; in "The Little Black Boy", Blake describes how he hopes love and equality will be possible in the future through the child speaker. The little black boy himself foresees him and the little white boy playing together in heaven without prejudice. In "The Chimney Sweeper", the young boy, Tom, imagines freedom through the Angel; he must suffer in this life in order to have a good life in heaven. Blake makes these points of liberation equally clear in the poems by the repeated theme of conditional love in "The Chimney Sweeper" and the inclinations of equality in "The Little Black Boy". Through these visions Blake tackles recognizable social and moral injustices which present the reader with an insight into the future.

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