A Chimney Sweep’s Lot- Victorian England’s Stratified Society

In Henry Mayhew’s “Boy Crossing-Sweepers and Tumblers,” we see an interesting relationship between the young, “remarkably intelligent” chimney sweep and the rest of society. This lad has developed code names for when different people walk by with the tiniest hope that perhaps they’ll give him money. How is it that people in that society are so desensitized to seeing a poor child begging on the street? Even the couples with children appear to stroll past the chimney sweep without a second glance. However, and most alarming, is the relationship between the chimney sweeps and the police officers. “If there’s a police coming, [they] musn’t ask for money” and one of the officers is even “up” to them. Are the police so removed from society that they are opposed to the innocent, those who need them most? Do the police represent authority, so distant and detached, and the children represent the innocence of society, neglected and abused? It seems to me that those who are supposed to be protectors are only working to protect one type of person and one type of life- the upper class. The rest, like the young chimney sweep, are left to fend for themselves and fight against the existing system. And, on another note, why is this child able to speak of his abuse and sorrows in such an eloquent, rational way? It seems that the lot of the poor comes as no surprise to them. Through the chimney sweep, Mayhew presents a severely stratified society in which one class is either ignorant or bothered by another and where people are of less value than money.

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