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Imagery in Hard Times

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Introduction

Choose two scenes from Hard Times and examine Charles Dickens' use of imagery in establishing characterisation Dickens uses both descriptive and symbolic imagery when he tries to put something into character. Dickens knows that the use of characters and places is very powerful in bringing out the major themes of the book, and so the characters and the themes are intricately intertwined with each other. In the beginning of chapter four of book one, called "The Key-Note," Dickens uses vast amounts of imagery to establish the character of Coketown. "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." His descriptive imagery of the smoke and ashes give you the feeling of a very begrimed and caliginous place where maybe even breathing and seeing become harder. His symbolic imagery compares Coketown with the painted face of a savage, both unnatural and heartless. "It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys...and never got uncoiled." Dickens continues with a theme of unnaturalness, as machinery and tall chimneys are far from being natural objects. When he speaks of interminable serpents, he symbolises the smoke as serpents, evil and malicious creatures. ...read more.

Middle

"You saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful...for anything that appeared to the contrary in the graces of their construction." Dickens tells us that any religious building can be easily be mistaken for a factory, and that a church is just another warehouse but with a religious value. A church is a building that is meant to be one of supreme grace and beauty, yet in Coketown, the churches are simply another red brick building. Dickens mentions the exception, the New Church, which he describes to be very beautiful, complete with stuccowork and excessively decorative pinnacles, and this could be to symbolise some unique and exceptional characters in Coketown, that are tired of being part of the system of fact. Dickens goes on to echo the lack of uniqueness in the buildings, as you could mistake the infirmary for the jail. This deficiency of some uniqueness is a lack of imagination, and as we know, imagination is practically illegal in Coketown. "Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of the town...world without end, Amen." The rule by which Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby live by is the way in which the town has been designed and created. It is as if Coketown was actually created by Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby. The plenitude of fact in the town symbolises its hard-edged environment, and being a fact-bound environment, and insufficient amount of fancy and imagination, it is once more unnatural and manufactured like a machine. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Chiefly noticeable for a slender body, weakly supported on two long slim props, and surmounted by no head worth mentioning." Her 'grotesque' figure is similar to that of the young Mrs Sparsit when she had just come of age. Dickens describes Mrs Sparsit to have looked like a very lanky young lady, almost malnourished. He also makes her face appear to have been quite ugly, and all in all, makes her to have looked like a very scrawny person. Dickens' imagery of Mrs Sparsit gives a feeling of her being proud, and of her being a 'snooper' - someone who meddles into other peoples' affairs. Dickens makes Mrs Sparsit one of the ugly creatures, both in her appearance and her intensions. Sparsit is a key character in creating another major theme in the novel: 'Officiousness, Spying and Knowledge.' She also plays a large part in revealing the theme of 'Unnaturalness.' The author, in some ways, makes Mrs Sparsit a 'goodie two shoes' to Mr Bounderby, as if she were some kind of servile mistress of Bounderby's; soothing his pain, calming his anger, obeying his commands. Dickens gives Mrs Sparsit a much exaggerated personality, like a caricature, and he makes her some kind of bird of prey; with a beak, symbolising her Roman nose, flying high in the social scale above the Hands of Coketown, along with the other 'well-connected' people, from a position whence she can spy on everyone and everything that goes on. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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