Table of Contents
II.) Allegories and Descriptions of Coketown in “Hard Times”, Book One, Chapter Five: The Key-Note
III.) Allegories and Descriptions of Coketown in “Hard Times”, Book Two, Chapter One: Effects in the bank
The industrialization in England, started in the eighteenth and continued in the nineteenth century, caused a radical change to working habits and ways of life. Especially to the majority which now is spending most of its time in factories, getting only few amounts of money, just enough to earn its living. The invention of the steam engine and automated production processes, along with an immense population growth, caused a considerable accumulation of people close to industrial locations. This labour surplus lead to low salaries, because of too much supply of workers and too less demand of workers. That constellation gave a lot of power to a few people, those people that owned the factories and industrial complexes. In short, the employers, which where homo ökonomici had only profit in their minds. At these times we are far away from social services or standard wages. These circumstances lead to serious problems among the working class, which had been the majority. They lived in bad conditions in a polluted surrounding, dirty streets and a filthy environment. Leisure time was not known. Life mainly consists of working, eating and sleeping. In these times, where structural change in all aspects of life took or had taken place, Charles Dickens grew up among the most intensive stage of England’s industrialization. Growing older and becoming a writer, he refuses the money making and profit orientated society more and more. This critical attitude to people’s pursuit of money utters itself in his novel “Hard Times”, that he wrote in 1854. In this novel he blames the social differences in the then-society and in the then-life in a satiric and as well melodramatic way. The novel on the one hand shows the struggle of the factory workers and lower class people in everyday life, on the other hand the struggle for social status, etiquette, money and power of the middle and higher class, which is represented in “Hard Times” by Mr Bounderby, the Gradgrind family, Mrs Sparsit and others. The lower poor working class consists of the characters of Stephen Blackpool, his friend Rachel, the circus members, the Union, and others. Not to forget Sissy, which is adopted by the Gradgrinds out of her low poor status into a higher class.
The setting of the novel is in a typical English industrialized town just as Manchester once used to be in the nineteenth century with all its characteristics like pollution, poverty, factories, et cetera. “The Manchester school of thought expounded the utilitarism”1 that is found in “Hard Times” and is represented by Mr Bounderby and Mr Gradgrind. Those two men rely everything on facts, and don’t leave any space for emotions or fancy, what will bring them into serious trouble in the discourse of the novel. Dickens shows that life does not only consist of facts, and thus not of money and power, but as well of emotions, feelings and inexplicable phenomenons. Whereas the workers suffer from the bad working and living conditions, the employers and well-situated people regard the grey, dirty and smoggy city as something beautiful and something that is a product of their cleverness, that produces money and power for them.
To work out the contrast between the two extreme classes of population and to show in a satiric way, what a worse place this Coketown is for most of its inhabitants. Dickens uses allegories, metaphors and symbols. To have a more detailed view on those stylistic devices used by Charles Dickens in “Hard Times”, it is necessary to go into some exemplary sections of the novel. The chapters five of book one and chapter one of book two will suit for this intention. These two chapters are enriched by descriptions of Coketown, coloured by Dickens’ allegorical satiric way of writing. But the chapters offer as well a view on other stylistic devices in aspects concerning for example persons like Mrs Sparsit in the bank, which is seen by people as the “bank dragon”(Page XY)2 guarding the money, although she regards herself as the “bank fairy”.
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- Julian Schatz (Author), 2005, Analysis and Interpretation of the Descriptions of Coketown in Charles Dickens’ “Hard Times”, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/74125