Dickens shows a lack of creativity in “Hard Times” due to industrialisation and belief in utilitarianism. The industrialisation of Coketown does not allow for creativity. Every building is built the same, “The jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail, the town-hall might have been either or both”. Dickens shows how even with the buildings of Coketown, there is no creativity since the buildings are all alike in looks.
Coketown is the setting, so because Coketown has no creativity, this is a reflection on the society of the town. Furthermore, the lack of leisure hours for the working class shows how industrialisation controlled their lives, “You saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful”. Dickens reveals how only work was ever seen thriving in Coketown; social activities never took place in Coketown. Since the working class were simply expected to work, they were given hardly any leisure hours. Similarly, creativity is not allowed to enter the classroom,
“Why, then, you are not to see anywhere what you don’t see in fact; you are not to have anywhere that you don’t have in fact. What is called Taste is only another name for Fact”. The children are forced to have no imagination and no creativity as a result of the industrial and utilitarian belief of the society. They even revoke the idea of “taste”, of imagination and change this to “fact” such that the children are forced to have no creativity whatsoever. This shows how Victorian education is simply preparing them for the working world, where they would be adequately prepared for the lack of creativity. By showing the lack of creativity and leisure hours due to industrialisation, Dickens is showing another example of the hard times industrialisation has caused and is criticising how utilitarianism shapes the children into the same lifeless mould.
In “Hard Times”, Dickens generates a sense of the hard times felt by working classes through the poor working and learning conditions. The working conditions were terrible, “It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it”. “Coketown” itself is described by Dickens as being polluted and dirtied due to the factories from industrialisation. Dickens also shows the terrible working conditions by describing the noise, “where there was a rattling and trembling all day long”. Dickens shows how the working conditions were terrible, creating hard times, due to industrialisation.
Due to the sought after belief of utilitarianism, the working class were not looked after, for it probably cost money to improve working conditions for them. Spending less money on the working class was seen as “the greatest utility”. The working conditions were described as equally atrocious in the Victorian schools. The classroom is described as a “plain, bare, monotonous”… “warehouse-room” … “vault”.
Dickens also characterisation in naming the town “Coketown”. Coke is another word for coal, so the name of this town gives the imagery of industry and work Dickens deliberately uses this depressing language to emphasise the terrible learning conditions. By using language and naming techniques, Dickens conveys the hard times experienced not only by the working class but by their children too. Charles Dickens further communicates the hard times felt by the working classes by referring to the pollution and over industrialisation. The pollution described in “Coketown” was dreadful, “out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever and never got coiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye”.
The pollution is described with life and colour, unlike the inhabitants of Coketown, and the town of Coketown itself. Dickens does this so it can be seen that the pollution is the most animated object in Coketown, rather than the people or the town itself. This is to create contrast between the pollution and the population. Since Coketown was so enriched in utilitarianism, and so over industrialised, Dickens also makes a clever criticism of the pollution caused by industrialisation referring to the smoke as “serpents”. Indeed, the pollution is characterised as “serpents of smoke” to emphasise how the pollution becomes alive and animated which is further extended by the use of alliteration. This clever animalisation further criticises industrialisation since serpents are symbolic of evil. Dickens is therefore suggesting that this pollution is an evil by-product of industrialisation.
Dickens also uses animism effectively in his comparison of the factory machinery to an elephant, “where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness”. The animation of the machinery as an elephant is in contrast to the lifelessness of the workers which is ironic since the machinery is more alive than the people. Furthermore, the image of an elephant is designed to terrify the reader and radiate the idea that machinery was a terrifying thing for the workers to be around all day. Additionally the use of alliteration “melancholy madness” stimulates the noise of the machinery and provides the reader a vivid reverberation of the hard times felt. Dickens effectively uses characterisation – such as animism – and the language technique of alliteration, to identify the terrible pollution caused by industrialisation representing the hard times felt by the working class.
A further sense of the hard times the working class experienced is created by the presentation of the inhabitants of “Coketown” as a people lacking in principles or morals. Instead of religion worshipped, the people of “Coketown” worshipped facts or money, “A town so sacred to fact.” Dickens uses religious wording, “sacred” to emphasise that facts and money was worshipped by the town as opposed to religion. Dickens uses religious terminology in conjunction with words associated with utilitarianism and industrialisation to further suggest the worship of industry and fact over God, “what you couldn’t state in figures, or show to be purchasable in the cheapest market and saleable in the dearest was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen.” The extended metaphor of religion effectively explains the placement of religious morals with the principles of industrialisation. Furthermore, Dickens shows that the eighteens churches in Coketown were rarely attended,
“Who belonged to the eighteen denominations? Because, whoever did, the labouring people did not. It was very strange to walk through the streets on a Sunday morning, and note how few of them the barbarous jangling of bells” By showing how hardly anyone went to church on Sundays despite there being “eighteen denominations” is another example of Dickens showing the replacement of faith in religion with faith in industrialisation. By doing this, Dickens is condemning the workers. He is reproving their false idolisation of industry in Coketown rather than following moral religious belief. Dickens effectively uses the metaphor of religion to commune the hard times by showing how the citizens of Coketown worshipped facts and industrialisation rather than religion.
In his novel “Hard Times”, Dickens effectively communicates a sense of the hard times the working class experienced through industrialisation and utilitarianism by using specific language and characterisation. The factory workers are dehumanised and considered to be machines. The removal of their individual identities echoes the monotony and hardship of their daily routine. By spreading the removal of individuality to even the school children, Dickens conveys how the immoral beliefs in industrialisation are embodied in the Victorian attitude to education. Furthermore, the extraction of creativity from the children and the lack of leisure hours for factory workers show the hard work commanded by the society, which created such hard times.
This is echoed in the sense of entrapment in these hard times for the children and the workers. Indeed, Dickens shows the difficulty of being released from the entrapment of these hard times in a society so fixed on an immoral and misguided pursuit of utilitarianism, which has replaced morals and religion with the worship and idolisation of industry and facts. The high level of pollution in Coketown further suggests the harsh conditions and effects of over industrialisation. Overall, Charles Dickens successfully and convincingly communicates a sense of the hard times which the working class experienced due to the industrialisation and the Victorian attitudes to education, by making specific use of language and characterisation.
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