The central theme in ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ featured in the ‘Song of Innocence’ collection is the fact that if one lives a life doing his ‘duties’, one will go to heaven. Already, this shows naivety, as it has such a simple meaning. This is something that a child is more likely to understand, and being part of the ‘Songs of Innocence’, this seems a realistic central theme. However, whilst the theme in the ‘Innocence’ collection has a very simple theme, the poem featuring in the ‘Songs of Experience’ collection is questioning the work of God. It also questions religion, showing that adulthood has a much more complicated view on not just Blake’s subjects, but any topic or matter.
A quote that shows naivety in the ‘Innocence’ collection is:
‘And the angel told Tom is he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father and never want joy’
This quote not only proves the central theme of doing good and going to heaven, but it also shows the lack of awareness that Tom and other children have. Firstly, Blake uses the word ‘angel’. The poem shows us that as a child, we are simply taught to accept everything we are told. By including the word ‘angel’, Blake is proving this theory. This is because, in adulthood, we would question the subject and ask, “is there such a thing as an angel?”. A child, however, would believe in such a thing, even with no reason for doing so, just as they also believe in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy. Blake also suggests that ‘Little Tom Dacre’ will be rewarded is he does good things and lives a good life, by saying that Tom ‘will have God as his father’. As a very young child, Tom was sold by his father, as it illustrates in the early stages of the poem. Therefore, if Tom understands his responsibilities as a chimney sweeper and a neglected child, God will honour him and become the father that Tom grew up without and missed in his childhood. However, a quote contrasting the previous passage and also belonging to the ‘Experience’ collection is:
‘They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe’
Whilst in the ‘Songs of Innocence’ the quote talks about rewarding those who accept their responsibilities, this quote talks about the opposite, and juxtaposes the other. This quote talks about punishing people and accepting the fact that they won’t be rewarded. By clothing someone in ‘clothes of death’, Blake is showing the audience that although it is the parents’ responsibility to clothe a child, the boy subject of this poem is not being clothed in real clothes, but metaphorical clothes of ‘death’. This shows us that the parents of this little boy have not only neglected the child, but their responsibility to look after the boy, also.