What is the theme of the poem '' The Chimney Sweeper''?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Blake's poignant poem of the poor, innocent little boys made to climb through chimneys and clean them to the point that their bodies become deformed as they grow and their lungs fill with the soot, points to the horrific exploitation of children as its theme.

So pitiful is the life of these little chimney sweeps that their only solace is in the hopes of dreams and of death.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

For the new chimney sweeper, little Tom goes to sleep, dreaming of a new life after death that will console him for the terrible deprivations he suffers in his life. Thus, Blake subtlely exposes the brutal conditions under which these children are exploited as the innocent retains hope, 

Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm

"The Chimney Sweeper" exposes the cruel injustice of a society that places commercial value over human value with its theme of the inhumane treatment of the little boys who are chimney sweepers.