What impression does Dickens give us of Coketown and its people in the first five chapters of Hard Times
What impression does Dickens give us of Coketown and its people in Hard Times?
Firstly, Dickens' crude choice of names for the characters reveals much about their individual personalities. `Gradgrind', the schoolteacher, epitomises Dickens' disapproval of his contemporary educational system, which was based on the principle that `facts are knowledge'. The name metaphorically suggests that he is grinding down his pupils' imagination and replacing it with facts in their memory. The name also holds connotations of the gradual, repetitive motion of grinding which mirrors the dull, repetitive manner in which he teaches his pupils. Also, the name `Gradgrind' is composed of hard sounding syllables, giving the impression he has an unfriendly nature and is unapproachable. Gradgrind's bland name suggests that he himself has been ground down by the nature of the society he now promotes.
`The M'Choakumchild school' emphasises the hated impression of school in the nineteenth century. Corporal punishment is frequently seen in Dickens' contemporary schools and here, the name holds exaggerated implications, to the extent of death. He refers to the school as `all fact', showing that the next generation were brought up to be identical to the last. The children are being made into a product of fact, strongly linking with the theme of industrialisation. The school headmaster's name, `M'Choakumchild', suggests a lot about his character, especially given his position at the school. The name links with the theme of fact and fancy strongly by implying that the children's imagination was choked. Although the name `Mr M'Choakumchild' suggests that children were forbidden to use their imagination, at the same time it sounds as if children made it up.
Mr Bounderby believes himself to be morally superior to the inhabitants of Coketown who stand below his social status. However, Dickens portrays him as a hypocrite and although he is of a high social status, he is morally corrupt. Bounderby is representative of all men of his social status at that time, and through him Dickens' reveals an obvious opposition to such people.
Coketown is portrayed as an unwelcoming, unfriendly place. Dickens uses numerous vivid images to create this impression: `it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.' This image holds implications of hostility and unwelcoming territory. It suggests a vicious nature to the town, suggesting that those who live there are primitive and old fashioned. The use of personification brings the town to life, giving it the intimidating characteristics of a `savage'.
Dickens uses an extended metaphor of wildlife throughout his description of Coketown. He creates an image of a jungle of industry, the machinery and chimneys symbolising...