HARD TIMES ASSIGNMENT
DISCUSS: Dickens’ Coketown is not a city, rather a stage for the workings out of Gradgrind’s philosophy. Considering the above sentence examine the construction of the city in Hard Times.
Coketown is quite literally the ‘town of coke’, the raw material used to convert iron to steel and indirectly the foundation of the ‘steel/industrial revolution’. It is critical to analyze the name of the city for Dickens’ Hard Times is a satirical caricature on the condition of England in the 19th century. Dickens uses language as a powerful tool to put across his points or rather his ‘facts’. The inhabitants of Coketown have only one function, namely to work. Coketown is a city that feeds no needs besides what is useful there are no recreational areas etc. but only the brutal facts of working life. Speaking generally the city represents the negative effects Industrial Revolution and philosophic theories such as Utilitarianism and "the mercantile doctrine of Laissez-faire under which England's factory system had flourished" (Allingham) have on the people. This situation is allegorized in the scene where Bitzer, the allegory of fact, chases Sissy, who represents imagination since she belongs to the circus, through Coketown. ” COKETOWN, TO WHICH MESSRS. Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was a triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs. Gradgrind herself. Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before pursuing our tune. It was a town of red brick or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.” Through the use of metaphorical language, and a repetition much like what industry seems to represent the author brings across the point that society is often a reflection of what occurs because as industry mechanizes work, it mechanizes the lives of people as well, which is said in a rather melancholic tone. Dickens makes it explicitly clear that Coketown often compared to Preston and Manchester, is city where everything is alike. There is an inherent lack of uniqueness be it among the buildings, the avenues or the people. The sameness of the town further seems to highlight the ‘factual’ or mechanised construction of the place. It is dull and listless, oblivious to the concerns of it is inhabitants and is forever shrouded in a haze which makes look even more despondent. The uncanny deficiency of colour in the city further signifies the lack of vivacity and individuality. Colour symbolisms are used to describe Coketown in terms of red and black, these indicate not only the environmental damage brought about by industrialization, but also the loss of people's independence, joy and vitality in their town. In chapter five the reader gets to know a dull and dirty brick city. The bricks, just like Gradgrind's home 'Stone Lodge', are a sign of the rigidity of the system and are in sheer contrast to imagination. Coketown is the juxtaposition of similarity versus difference. Not only do the buildings of Coketown look alike ("The jail might have...
Bibliography: Works cited-
Modern Critical interpretation - Harold Bloom
Critique of Materialism
Dickens at work
Dickens and the Twentieth Century
Class notes and the text
Charles Dickens Studies – John Bowen and Robert L. Patten
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