What is Dickens Attitude to the Working Classes in Chapter XX (Book 2,
Chapter 4)?Does Dickens portray the Unions with as much Sympathy as the
Workers? Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times in 1854.
What is Dickens Attitude to the Working Classes in Chapter XX (Book
2, Chapter 4)?
Does Dickens portray the Unions with as much Sympathy as the Workers?
Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times in 1854. He lived in London and
because he was writing about industrialisation in the North at that
time he went up to Preston in 1852 to explore the industrialisation
there and to witness the strike of the weavers. He was horrified by
the oppressing industrialists he witnessed and also horrified by
seeing the way the common people were made to work. His experiences in
Preston and the characters he met were very much portrayed in Hard
Chapter 20 in Hard Times shows Dickens’ attitude to the different
classes of people that were involved in industrialisation. The chapter
is about the mill workers who are debating whether or not to go on
strike because they are tired of the bad treatment they are receiving
from their oppressor, Bounderby. The two main characters who are
speaking in this Chapter of the book are Stephen and Slackbridge.
Stephen is one of the workers in the mill who has sworn to the woman
that he is in love with, Rachel, that he would not join the Union
because of reasons not explained in the book. The main point that
Dickens is putting across through what Stephen is saying is that if
they strike and join the Union then it will result in even more harsh
treatment and a bleak future.
Slackbridge is the Trade Unionist in the chapter who we presume has
been sent by the National Unionists to encourage the workers to join
the Union. Dickens portrays Slackbridge as the unsympathetic
professional activist. From the way Slackbridge talks we see that he
has come here to do his job and is using persuasive and emotional
language when he speaks to the workers. Although Slackbridge would
like himself to be seen as an understanding character in the workers’
eyes, he actually had no care for the workers’ feelings and therefore
Dickens portrays him as a very cold and manipulative character.
Dickens attitude to the Chairman is he is the neutral character in the
chapter. “There was a chairman to regulate the proceedings , and this
functionary now took the case into his own hands.” This was said
about the chairman after Slackbridge had spoken and there was a lot of
confusion amid the crowd. But overall during the chapter, the chairman
is sympathetic towards Stephen which draws the reader to feel almost
sorry for him too. In this way Dickens portrays Stephen as the
underdog compared to Slackbridge.
The crowd starts at the beginning of the chapter as very enthusiastic
towards what Slackbridge is saying; ‘“Good! Hear, hear, hear! Hurrah!”
and other cries, arose in many voices from various parts of the