Blake’s ‘The Chimney Sweeper’: Literature & Injustice

Lesson rationale

In this lesson, students will explore sources related to the lives of chimney sweepers in the early 19th century, highlighting the conditions endured by the children whose plight William Blake highlights in his ‘Chimney Sweeper’ poems. Students will also analyse both poems, identifying the techniques Blake uses to present the lives of the chimney sweepers and the attempts to offer religion as a form of consolation.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What working conditions did chimney sweepers in early 19th century Britain have to endure?
  • Why was Blake so outraged about the plight of chimney sweepers?
  • What techniques does Blake use to draw attention to the chimney sweepers’ situation?
  • What was Blake’s attitude towards those who offered religion as a solution to the chimney sweepers’ plight?