Allusion in The Chimney Sweeper
Christian Tradition: Blake relies heavily on allusions to Christian iconography and narratives. In the fifth stanza, he describes the chimney sweepers in Tom’s vision as “naked and white.” This alludes to traditional European Christian art, which often depicted angels and the newborn Jesus as naked and pale to show their purity and innocence. Blake also alludes to the central philosophy of redemption in the Christian tradition with the arrival of the angel. In the speaker’s dream, the angel retrieves the chimney sweepers from their coffin and guides them back to heaven. The angel redeems the chimney sweepers from their mundane suffering by escorting them to heavenly joy. The connection between Christianity and child labor is deliberate, as many English workhouses were run by parishes. In light of this connection, Blake expresses skepticism towards the prospect of Christian salvation for chimney sweepers, whose conditions remain miserable.