Blog 3, Week 5

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.

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12 thoughts on “Blog 3, Week 5

  1. Hey Riley this was an interesting blog post. Your interpretations of Dicken’s views on the industrialising Coketown depicted in ‘Hard Times’ I believe is correct and actually quite a controversial thing to say from a 21st century perspective even. Given how the Industrial revolution is the foundation for modern society’s technology and lifestyle habits in most ways despite their impact on the environment and the Human spirit. However I genuinely would liked to have seen use of quotes from text and see you pick apart various word choices and sentence structures, to show me that you’ve analysed this piece critically. It was pleased to hear your thoughts on the snake imagery as possibly being a symbol of good health and wellness since I thought it would have had more biblical connotations of being linked to sin and moral the time. your reference to Dicken’s use of cruel irony in the quote “Glory be” does indeed however highlight the suffering and wastage that has happened in the wake of what many in the middle and upper classes thought of as progress at the time. Now! I hope your work continues to grow, improve, and that you give me reviews twice as harsh as this one in future!


    1. Thank you for your feedback, I know I need to remember to put in more quotes into my blogs. Even though this is just a blog, I do need to go into more depth in regards to my analysis.


  2. Hi Riley,

    Firstly, WOW what a blog post! You really hit the nail on the head. Your blog concisely summarises the main issues that Dickens speaks about in Hard Times. I agree with a lot of the points that you made within your piece because as I read the novel, I too felt like I was grasping for breath and on the brink of having an anxiety attack. It’s also interesting to see your own interpretations on the type of language used by Dickens and what they meant to you. In your next blog post I think it would be really beneficial if you added some quotes to back up your thoughts!

    Other than that, keep up the good work!


  3. Great piece. Your identification of how Dickens epitomises the Industrial Revolution in the description of Coketown is great. The insufferable nature of the elongated sentences was an extremely good point and I appreciate your attention to detail. In your mention of the snake being the smog, I disagree slightly. For me, snake’s connote chaos, moreover turmoil, and temptation, generated from Biblical stories. This temptation could be then interpreted as the intense greed for money – like you said, people’s obsession with money that ruins society. Your quote choice was exceptional in displaying the way in which ‘fact’ is a form of religion.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog.


    1. Thank you for your response! I do agree with your argument of the snake but in the context of Hard Times, I think Dickens is trying to make the novel comical. But it is up for interpretation for the reader!


  4. Hey Riley,

    Great blog post. I really enjoyed reading this as I found some interesting information in your analysis. The fact that Coketown is represented as a dull and lacking place emphasises the point that Dickens is trying to make which is as how you state: “Industrial Revolution and how materialism and the obsession of money and urbanisation have been the downfall of humanity.” This sums up the overall novel very well!

    One suggestion that I would like to make is some quotes or relevant examples would also strengthen your argument even more.



  5. Pingback: Peer Review #3

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