Does the content of his narration weaken his innocent trust in God? What is the speaker's relationship to Tom Dacre, and what does Tom's dream mean?
The speaker of the poem is a young chimneysweep. The content of the poem does not weaken his innocent trust in God, but it does shake the reader's trust. The poem gains its power, in fact, through the slippage between how trusting the innocent speaker is, and the knowledge (experience) that gives the reader a sinking feeling of despair about the fate of these sweeps.
Tom Dacre is a young boy who becomes a chimneysweep. He cries because his head is shaven so that he can more easily get down the chimneys. The narrator comforts him.
Later, Tom relates to the narrator that he has dreamed that an angel released all the chimneysweeps from their "coffins" (an apt description of the dark, narrow chimneys in which the sweeps spent most of their time, not only because of the chimney's appearance but also because the work often led to early death).
The angel lets the boys run in a green plain in the sunshine and swim in a river. The angel also tells Tom that if he is good, he will never lack joy.
This comforts the speaker, who takes heart and states that
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
However, we as readers know that these boys are very likely never to have joy in their lives. Being dutiful, too, will not save them from harm. Whatever their religion tells them in their innocence, the likelihood is that they will continue to be harmed and mistreated.
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