A Comparison of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen
ADVANCED ENGLISH LANGUAGE ESSAY
Of the many authors to emerge during the nineteenth-century, Charles
Dickens and Jane Austen were among the few who would make a lasting
impression on the literary world for generations. Hard Times, often
referred to as Dickens’ ‘Industrial novel’ and Austen’s Pride and
Prejudice have been much read and well-loved classics for many years.
It is the purpose of this essay to compare and contrast the different
worlds depicted in both Hard Times and Pride and Prejudice. It will
also look at the literary development between the early and late
nineteenth-century. The essay will end with the examination of the
stylistic characteristics of each author.
In the world depicted in Hard Times, workers are treated as little
more than interchangeable parts in the factory's machinery, given just
enough wages to keep them alive and just enough rest to make it
possible for them to stand in front of their machines the next day.
The town in which the story is set is called Coketown, taking its name
from the ‘Coke’, or treated coal, powering the factories and
blackening the town's skies. It is a large fictional industrial
community in the north of England during the mid-nineteenth century.
In Chapter 5 of the novel, Dickens describes the town as having
buildings and streets that looked the same with red brick but were
forever masked with smoke. The reader is told that the town looked
like the ‘painted face of a savage’ and ‘serpents of smoke’ trailed
out of its factories. It is easy to imagine the sunshine struggling to
break through the thick smoke.
The lives of the workers were monotonous and hard as they lived in ‘a
town so sacred to fact’. Coketown also had eighteen different
churches, which none of the workers attended or were allowed to
attend. The churches were just as monotonous as the factories and
rarely had a “bell in a bird-cage” on the roof. It may appear that
Dickens was indirectly criticising the church for failing to respond
to human needs.
Stephen Blackpool was an example (but not entirely typical) of a
member of the working class. Dickens tells us that he was a
forty-year old power-loom weaver who looked older than his years due
to a life filled with more than his share of trouble. Although he was
uneducated and poor, he was ‘a man of perfect integrity.’ Stephen,
however, is not only a victim of the factory system but has domestic
problems that complicate and embitter his life. (Page, 1985)
Boundary, a prominent man of business represents those from the higher
social classes who wish to keep a division between themselves and the
lower classes. He is portrayed by Dickens as the worst kind of
employer at that time (exploiting the workers in order to make money
for the ‘masters’) and his harsh treatment towards Stephen may be seen
to represent many rich people’s intolerance for the poor. Dickens
shows how the...