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Quotes

Quote #1

A little black thing among the snow,
Crying "'weep! 'weep!" in notes of woe! (1-2)

The child seems already dead; he's not a child but a "black thing," almost like a corpse that has rotted. The child is black partly as a result of the soot from his job, which is a handy way the poem connects chimney-sweeping and its most dire result—death.

Quote #2

They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe (7-8)

The suggestion at the beginning of the poem is made clear here; the child is basically dead, garbed in a funeral shroud. He wears the "clothes of death" that his parents gave him. In that sense, they've as good as killed him. Yikes.

Quote #3

And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury (9-10)

It's strange that the sweeper is "happy" and dances and sings, but we have to look at this remark in light of his "death." His commitment to enjoying himself as much as possible is a protest against death, a way of making himself feel alive. Or is he really happy at all? Is he just faking it?

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