A prominent sinister undertone runs through Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” in Songs of Innocence as the reader sees the Sweep’s exploitation.  Though he is forced to work, Tom Dacre remains in a state of innocence, and his imagination allows him to find hope.  Without a known identity from his parents, the idea of a heavenly father easily diverts Tom’s eyes from the hardship before him to the alternative reality he longs.  Innocence is then a state of the mind when dreams hold more power than reality.

The Chimney Sweeper of Songs of Experience is not so easily distracted.  Experience has chipped away at his readiness to believe the religious rhetoric.  Instead, religion has become a cause of neglect and pain as his parents abandon him to go to prayers.  While his outward behavior corresponds with what is expected of a child, his experience as a Sweep has brought his imaginative innocence to a premature end.  He now sees religion and hope as hollow and cannot see past the immediate reality of his circumstances.  Experience exposes false hope.

By connecting the two stories of the Chimney Sweep, Blake creates a continuous narrative of the decay of innocence.  These accounts then present complementary attacks on religion as an institution exploiting the innocent and bringing suffering to the experienced.  While at first religion and imagination can distract the sweep, experience makes him aware of harsher reality.

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