Dickens uses an extended metaphor of wildlife throughout his description of Coketown. He creates an image of a jungle of industry, the machinery and chimneys symbolising trees for the ‘serpents of smoke’ to climb. The connotations are that Coketown is not a safe place to be and that it is full of danger. Dickens goes on to emphasise the devastation caused by the industrial age, saying ‘It was a town of red brick, or of brick what would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it’.
This emphasises the domination of industry over Coketown, suggesting that the smoke has affected the physical appearance of the town. Also, the fact that the smoke does not ‘allow’ this to change suggests that the smoke has some sort of control over Coketown and that even if the people wanted rid of it they could not do so, emphasising the necessity of industry in Coketown. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, Coketown is fuelled by industry and would therefore be nothing without it.
To exaggerate how unpleasant and oppressing the effects of industry are, Dickens makes use of the different senses. For example, the description of the smoke and ash from the industrial work covering the buildings. Initially, the structure of the buildings creates an eyesore enough, let alone with the added emphasise of the buildings being covered in industrial by-products. Coketown has a ‘black canal’ and ‘a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye’. He emphasises the noise pollution created by the industrial processes which occur in Coketown, ‘windows…
rattling and trembling all day long’.
The amount of disturbance in the industrial town gives the impression that it is an extremely unpleasant place to live. Dickens purposefully creates a great contrast between the untameable nature of the wild and noisy Coketown to exaggerate the fact that Coketown is not a classic, rural English town. After enforcing the presence of industry, Dickens goes on to illustrate the appearance of the residents and the features of Coketown.
He begins this by strongly emphasising the monotony of the town, ‘It contained several large streets all very like one another… and every part year the counterpart of the last and next’. Dickens plays careful attention to show that all aspects of Coketown suffer from repetition. He emphasises how he physical features, the streets and the residents of Coketown are unvaried, ‘streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another’.
He goes as far as to imply that the resident’s lifestyles are timetabled, and that even time repeats itself, ‘every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every part year the counterpart of the last and next’. As Dickens uses both physical and non-physical features to represent the monotony of Coketown it creates a strong impression with the audience. It is also emphasised as Dickens uses only one long sentence so the tempo is decreased, better conveying the image of what he is suggesting. Coketown only contains that which is necessary to allow it to run, it is a utilitarian town.
The ‘fancy’ has been removed from Coketown. Dickens continues to criticise the ways of nineteenth century society, saying ‘… the jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail… ‘ Dickens’ use of juxtaposition creates a dramatic comparison as the two buildings are effectively opposites. Coketown is illustrative of all towns in the nineteenth century, in Dickens’ view. Through the exaggerated description of uniformity, he is telling how the society in which he lived was in fact a very tedious and unpleasant one.
Throughout the text, Dickens skilfully uses key words and phrases to continue the emphasis he is placing on the uniformity of Coketown. He uses forceful language to develop the point being made, ‘you saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful’. Other key images with further meaning are also used to create emphasis and provoke thought from the audience, ‘in severe characters of black and white’. The ‘black and white’ are used to represent the blandness of Coketown as well as emphasise the importance of fact.