Literary Analysis of “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence

Is Religion Man Made? When you think of religion what do you think of? Are you a religious person? Do you not care much for religion? Have you ever thought of religion as an idea that the elites make up to suppress the people with horrible lives from revolting and do their job? This is what William Blake, author of “The Chimney Sweeper” in the Songs of Innocence, thinks of religion. This story shows how the symbolic order uses this idea of religion to keep the sweepers obedient. In the story, the chimney sweepers work tirelessly and they are extremely poor. They are the scum of society and are rejected by all kinds of people.

The symbolic order gives them the idea that if they are obedient and do not speak out against what society has put them through, then they will go to heaven and have a much better life than the life they have now. In the story one of the chimney sweepers has a dream that an angel comes to him and tells him that if he is obedient then he will be in heaven and meet God. “And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy; He’d have God for his father, and never want joy” (Blake). The angel represents the Symbolic Order telling the children to stay obedient so that they can go to heaven.

Society, especially the authority figures, tells the children these things so that they just do their jobs without any troubles. The fact that this is a dream implies that this isn’t real and that the elites in society just make up religion to quite the masses. The chimney sweepers use the ideas given to them by the Symbolic Order and use them to repress the fact that they have horrible lives. Instead of trying to get out of the situation they are in they just be obedient and do nothing more; this way they can meet God in heaven. “And so Tom awoke…Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm” (Blake).

Even though Tom is just dreaming about going to heaven, he believes that he will if he is obedient. Instead of being miserable like normal, he is happy and warm because he has something to look forward to in the after-life. His ignorance towards the fact that it was just a dream gives him bliss even though his life is awful. The chimney sweepers have a fear of death because they are so willing to accept the idea of going to heaven after they die as long as they are obedient. They are afraid of dying considering the fact that they’re lives are terrible and they don’t want to die with such a bad life.

If they have something to look forward to after they die, then they won’t be so afraid of dying; which is why religion helps them get over their fear of death. “So if all do their duty they need not fear harm” (Blake). As long as they do what they are told they will have no harm in the after-life. This is why Tom is depressed before the dream and after the dream Tom is happy and warm. This story shows how the symbolic order uses this idea of religion to keep the sweepers obedient. The chimney sweepers’ lives are as bad as can be but society gives them empty promises so that they can stay quiet and do their work.

These ideas that the Symbolic Order gives help the sweepers get over their fear of death by giving them hope. It also helps them repress how bad their lives are. It takes their mind off of the fact they can try to change their lives. Overall the author is trying to convey that religion is just an idea made up by the Symbolic Order to repress people and keep them in line. Works Cited Blake, William. “The Chimney Sweeper. ” Songs of Innocence. N. p. : n. p. , n. d. N. pag. Http://www. online-literature. com. Web. 17 Sept. 2012. <http://www. online-literature. com/poe/628/>.