Industrialization and Utilitarianism in Dickens' Hard Times
Charles Dickens uses his fictitious town in Hard Times to represent the industrialization of England at that time or close to it. Most of this representation, however, isn't accurately described compared the way things really were during industrialization. It is important to remember throughout this paper that not only is Hard Times a work of fiction, it was meant to be a satire, a parody of ideas and ways of thinking at the time. In most respects, it wasn't meant to accurately describe the way things were.
Dickens covers up his parody with a realistic and extremely accurate depiction of the typical industrial town. Coketown is described to be the very picture of conformity, with all the buildings looking like one another. "It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage" (Dickens 30). It also isn't just the factories that look this way; the bank and even Bounderby's house look just like the rest of them. "The Bank offered no violence to the wholesome monotony of the town. It was another red brick house, with black outside shutters, green inside blinds, a black street-door up two white steps, a brazen door-plate, and a brazen door-handle full stop" (Dickens 117).
There is also the recurring image of the massive amount of smoke from all the factories. "It as a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves forever and ever, and never got uncoiled" (Dickens 30). "The Fairy Palaces burst into illumination before pale morning showed the monstrous serpents of smoke trailing themselves over Coketown" (Dickens 75).
According to Marcus, Dickens may have used the existing town of Manchester as a model for the future Coketown. "On November 6, 1838, Charles Dickens made his first visit to Manchester.... [H]is first surviving remarks on the experience occur in a letter written to E. M. Fitzgerald at the end of December. 'So far as seeing goes,' he stoutly affirmed, 'I have seen enough for my purpose, and what I have seen has disgusted and astonished me beyond all measure. I mean to strike the heaviest blow in my power for these unfortunate creatures....' The blow was a long time in getting delivered...; it came finally in the publication of Hard Times" (Marcus 30). In a way, Dickens took it upon himself to do much as Sinclair did with The Jungle; he wrote the book to expose the evils that existed and were going on in order to force people to realize them and get something done about it.
For the factories themselves, Dickens doesn't give much of a description of the inside. In fact, the only time the reader is taken inside of one to see the character Stephen Blackpool at work just as he's leaving. "A...