Discuss the theme of exploitation in "The Chimney Sweeper."

The theme of exploitation dominates “The Chimney Sweeper.” In both poems of the same name, Blake attempts to highlight the appalling working conditions that these children are forced to endure and the damaging effects that these conditions have on them.

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William Blake was scathing of what he saw as the damaging consequences of the modern industrial economy. Far from seeing it as an engine-room of progress and prosperity, he regarded it as bringing widespread suffering and misery to the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

In both poems by the name “The Chimney Sweeper,” Blake focuses on the exploitation of child labor and the damaging effects it has on the children forced to work to save themselves and their families from total destitution. In the Songs of Innocence poem, we are introduced to a poor young waif sold into the chimney sweep trade by his father before he could barely talk. He tells us about the thousands of young chimney sweeps now “locked up in coffins of black,” an obvious reference to how dangerous it is for young boys to work in this business.

In the shorter Songs of Experience poem, the chimney sweep isn't an orphan, but he might as well be. It's bad enough that he's the victim of exploitation, but it's even worse...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 897 words.)

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