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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.

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Introduction

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 Times. 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. ...read more.

Middle

Not that such meetings are less susceptible to humbug than meetings of any other class.........But even at their worst trade union organizers are not a bit like Slackbridge. . . . All this is pure middle-class ignorance. It is much as if a tramp were to write a description of millionaires smoking large cigars in church, with their wives in low-necked dresses and diamonds."'(2) 'Dickens notes that the strike organizers refused to listen to a group of Manchester delegates from the Labour Parliament, as they felt that these honourable gentlemen marginalised the strike and tried to explain and justify the policy of the Labour Parliament. This wisdom, order, dignity and moderation are totally absent from Hard Times'(3), which further shows Dickens attitude towards the people at the head of unionism and going on strike. In chapter 5, Slackbridge glorifies labour which is completely hypocritical to what he had been previously been saying about their suffering. He is very repetitive and goes back to the same point 'at such at time...at such a time....' Although some of his words could be seen as revolutionary 'with a noble and majestic unanimity that will make Tyrants tremble,' these good things are turned into manipulation and hypocrisy by Slackbridge. Another interesting point to note about Slackbridge is the similarity between his body language and that of Hitler's 'holding out his right hand at arm's length' etc. Whereas Dickens' portrayal of Stephen is completely different. Stephen is portrayed as the hero in this chapter and almost characterizes Dickens own personal thoughts to the problem at the time. ...read more.

Conclusion

He was afraid that strike might lead to rioting and cause the whole country to drift into chaos and even civil war.' (4) 'It seems more probable that the novel called forth a heightened picture all round, and in writing about the strike meeting he had only to draw upon that part of himself which had (with some reason) despised the more violent leaders of the chartists, that feared so desperately mob rule, to find himself in tune with the middle class who could take so much concern for social reform.'(5) Dickens had spoken to Karl Marx and possibly have read the publication of Engles' and Marxs' 'The Communist Manifesto.' It was unknown whether he agreed with his solution to the social injustices which industrialization had brought but it was certain that they both had very strong feelings of the workers being oppressed. Dickens had also seen what had happened when the workers did eventually revolt as 1848 was the Year of Revolutions; France, Germany and Russia had all revolted and we see that from the Chapter XX of Hard Times Dickens was definitely against the English workers forming a revolution too. It seems probable that Dickens's life-long distrust of political association and his early experience as a reporter in the House of Commons are partially responsible for his attitude to trade unions aswell. So although the tone of this chapter is revolutionary, it actually fails to be revolutionary. Hard Times was one of Dickens weakest novels as he didn't follow through his points and the most obvious question that he left unanswered and ambiguous is his solution to the industrial problem. ...read more.

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