There are many parallels between “The Little Black Boy” and “The Chimney Sweeper.” The speakers of both poems are victims of oppression who see the world from an “innocent” point of view. Both narrators cling to a promise of joy with absolute confidence. Yet there is a hint of dramatic irony in both stories—the experienced reader knows these children are being oppressed, but the children do not know this. The chimney sweeper’s axiom at the end—“So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.”—can be read from both the innocent and the experienced perspectives (24). There is the straightforward moral, but there is also an undercurrent of eerie indoctrination. There is an implication that the ignorance of the victims is a part of the problem, but the impossibility of escape is also evident. If the innocence of the child creates ignorance of oppression, then it seems like creating experience would be the solution. On the other hand, the victim cannot do anything about his own situation, so unveiling his eyes isn’t the answer either.
The black/white binary is also explored in “The Chimney Sweeper.” The speaker tells his fellow sweep, little Tom Dacre, that the sacrifices of the sweeps, such as their heads being shaved, are actually blessings: “Hush Tom! Never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,/You know that soot cannot spoil your white hair” (7-8). The speaker is unwaveringly optimistic, although the experienced reader can see how society has completely failed these children. The whiteness of Tom’s hair, symbolizing his innocence, contrasted with the blackness of the soot, symbolizing their severe experiences, embodies their oppression as a whole. In Tom’s dream, the black/white binary remains in the expected classification. He sees “thousands of sweepers […] were all of them locked up in coffins of black” (11-12). Then an angel comes to save them and “set them all free,” and the joy of heaven is represented by the sweeps becoming “naked and white” (14, 17). The blackness of death and exploitation transmutes into the whiteness of joy and freedom. However, this typicality is subverted by our experienced perception.