Write a brief critical appraisal of what you think Dickens’s main complaints are about Coketown- from the passage we explored in tutorials today.
One of the most enjoyable works that we have studied so far in the 19th Century Literature course has been Charles Dickens’s Hard Times. The section in our tutorials that we focused on was the introduction into Dicken’s perspective of Coketown, the heavily populated civilisation that had been ruined by pollution. I think Dickens almost perfectly tackles the main issues of the Industrial Revolution and how materialism and the obsession of money and urbanisation have been the downfall of humanity.
As Dickens describes Coketown, through the rapid and elongated sentences, it makes the audience feels like there are gasping for breath. Dickens did this to emphases the fact that the people within Coketown are trapped within their society’s beliefs and work ethic.With this Dickens uses the imagery of highly respected animals such as Lions and Elephants that have been forced into captivity, to highlight the fall from grace that humanity has undergone. I believe Dickens was correct in challenging his audience in saying that the Industrial Revolution was a backwards step for society as he saw it more as a negative due to the loss of cleanliness and how the rural side of England was being destroyed.
” A blur of soot and smoke, now confusedly tending this way, now that way, now aspiring to the vault of Heaven, now murkily creeping along the earth, as the wind rose and fell, or changed its quarter: a dense formless jumble, with sheets of cross light in it, that showed nothing but masses of darkness” (Dickens)
One thing, I found most interesting was the use of the imagery of the snake being the smog created from the machinery. It is quite ironic as usually an image of a snake is seen as a sign of health and good fortune while Dickens uses it as the opposite. What I’m unsure of is whether or not Dickens did this to be ironic and laugh at the mess that Coketown created or was it just the best way to create an image of the smog.
Another part of the passage I found important in regards to Dickens’s opinion was the use of religious elements. He ends the chapter with the use of “Glory Be”. I felt that Dickens used this as cruel irony meaning that society had become so regimented and controlled that its own central being was work ethic.
“The M’Choakumchild school was all fact, and the school of design was all fact, and the relations between master and man were all fact, and everything was fact between the lying-in hospital and the cemetery, and what you couldn’t state in figures, or show to be purchaseable in the cheapest market and saleable in the dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen” (Dickens)
This was the most important part of the passage that we look at in class for me as I agreed with Dickens and the how society is becoming purely focused on work and how people focus more so on being able to have money rather than live a happy lifestyle with little.