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Smoke Serpents And The Malevolence Of Industrialization

1235 words - 5 pages

As the first stray hints of bright morning begin to peek over the urban horizon, ominous, shadowy trails of smoke erupt from the gray giants soon to be filled up with machines. Leaving behind embalming coats of soot and residue in every direction, the endlessly winding serpents indiscriminately constrict the breaths of the impoverished workers and devour fancy in their paths. Meanwhile, on a hill overlooking the town, the factory owner rests easily in a bulky red house bearing BOUNDERBY upon a brazen plate. Dickens’ depictions of Coketown in Hard Times embody the flaws and corruption that persist in the fictional, industrialized city. The political and economic systems in the story, modeled ...view middle of the document...

It becomes overwhelmingly clear that the only thing that Bounderby responds to or cares for is profit, and the narration exposes this in discussing the reason behind why he willingly overlooks the obvious harm that his factories cause: “so much material wrought up, so much fuel consumed, so many powers worn out, so much money made” (67). Just as Bounderby neglects the damages he deals in Coketown, the manufacturing proprietors and primary beneficiaries of the industrial revolution pay no mind to the problems they trigger in the changing world of the 19th century.

As a consequence of this wrongful nescience, the common laborers suffer ceaseless physical hardships at the hands of their employers. Living through lengthy work days beginning “before pale morning showed the monstrous serpents of smoke trailing themselves over Coketown” and working tirelessly with “crashing, smashing, [and] tearing” (51) machines and “the glare of light and heat”, the poorer members of the town fall victim to numerous injustices (60). In the same way that the sinister imagery of the “Serpent of many coils” proves omnipresent in the town, the smoke serves as a mark of the pervading treachery and injustices forced upon the poor (59). Young and old alike, these commoners invariably deteriorate and “[waste] with heat, [toiling] languidly in the desert” (83). Whether it’s the prolonged hours, the noxious fumes, or the treacherous equipment, the unfortunate abuse inflicted upon the factory laborers acts as a sound exemplar of the imperfect and miserable essence of the industrial movement.

In addition to such corporeal damages, the manifestations of Bounderby’s impenitence and lack of compassion, signified by the looming smoke serpents, result in the villainous psychological mistreatment of the common people. The laborers suffer through not only the “killing airs and gases” in the confined rooms of the factory but also the callous manipulation of their supposed superiors (47). In the marauding eyes of the wealthy, the lower class workers are useful for nothing more than slaving in front of hot, unsound machines to produce goods and are thus worth no more than the hands that operate the machines; in fact, they are referred to as “the Hands” (47). The Hands are depicted as “quiet servants, with the composed faces and the regulated actions”, for the powers of industrialism have repressed their naturally wandering thoughts and dreams in favor of systematic compliance and efficient production (52). Consequently, most of the Hands have lost their will and ability to imagine and wish for better; those that have not are quickly forced into orderly conformity by preeminent sentiments of futility. Bounderby calls forth these feelings of uselessness when he says to Stephen Blackpool, “‘The...

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