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What impression does Dickens give us of Coketown and its people in Hard Times?

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Introduction

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. ...read more.

Middle

The connotations are that Coketown is not a safe place to be and that it is full of danger. Dickens goes on to emphasise the devastation caused by the industrial age, saying 'It was a town of red brick, or of brick what would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it'. This emphasises the domination of industry over Coketown, suggesting that the smoke has affected the physical appearance of the town. Also, the fact that the smoke does not 'allow' this to change suggests that the smoke has some sort of control over Coketown and that even if the people wanted rid of it they could not do so, emphasising the necessity of industry in Coketown. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, Coketown is fuelled by industry and would therefore be nothing without it. To exaggerate how unpleasant and oppressing the effects of industry are, Dickens makes use of the different senses. For example, the description of the smoke and ash from the industrial work covering the buildings. ...read more.

Conclusion

Coketown only contains that which is necessary to allow it to run, it is a utilitarian town. The 'fancy' has been removed from Coketown. Dickens continues to criticise the ways of nineteenth century society, saying '... the jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail...' Dickens' use of juxtaposition creates a dramatic comparison as the two buildings are effectively opposites. Coketown is illustrative of all towns in the nineteenth century, in Dickens' view. Through the exaggerated description of uniformity, he is telling how the society in which he lived was in fact a very tedious and unpleasant one. Throughout the text, Dickens skilfully uses key words and phrases to continue the emphasis he is placing on the uniformity of Coketown. He uses forceful language to develop the point being made, 'you saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful'. Other key images with further meaning are also used to create emphasis and provoke thought from the audience, 'in severe characters of black and white'. The 'black and white' are used to represent the blandness of Coketown as well as emphasise the importance of fact. Georgia Reeve 1 ...read more.

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