Presentation of Conflict in Hard Times
In “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens, conflict is presented as the outcome of industrialisation, material prosperity and a strict utilitarian way of life. In the 1850’s when the novel was written in instalments in ‘Household Words’, Victorian England was in the age of reform, which was creating new tensions between social classes, and creating a new type of ‘master’ represented by characters such as Mr. Gradgrind and more particularly Mr. Bounderby.
Conflict is shown between nature and the increasing rise of industrialisation. In Chapter 3 ‘The Key Note’ Dickens describes the setting of industrial Coketown, which is partially based upon 19th century Preston, which Dickens had visited. As Hard Times was Dickens only ‘social problem’ novel, Dickens uses imagery to increase awareness to his audience of the alarming rate of which industrialisation has taken over Nature. ‘Nature was as strongly bricked out.’ The dynamic verb ‘bricked’ is associated with man made labour suggesting the dominance of man over nature, further emphasized by the pre modified comparative ‘strongly’. Dickens use of complex sentences drag on like an endless nightmare, to make the audience aware of the appalling and on-going issues of Victorian society. Moreover the simile ‘unnatural red brick like the painted face of a savage’ is ironic as Dickens uses the derogatory noun ‘savage’ to satirise how even though economically and industrially Victorian England was at the height of it’s power, society had in fact gone backwards and lost sight of responsibility and humanity. ‘Ground in the Mill’ by Henry Morly appeared beside the Hard Times serialisation in ‘Household Words’. The articled described the events of a young factory girl who was malled by a machine, Dickens felt strongly against the immoral ethos of the self-serving factory owners who refused to protect their workers from industrial machinery, due to their own greed.