Coketown The relatively short time period of the Victorian age, which stretched from 1837 to 1901, produced one of the most famous British writers, Charles Dickens (1812-1870), who was very skilled at portraying the very dark aspects of the Victorian Era through his works. The Victorian Era is known for its dramatic increase in population and industrial growth that brought along fast growing cities and a bigger use of machines, that were coal fueled, having an enormous impact on the appearance of major cities, that would become shrouded in soot and create a very sinister and dark ight.
The appearance of such a town is a dominant theme in the excerpt of “Hard Times” (1854) by Charles Dickens. The text is very descriptive of how the city in which the story take place looks, in a very negatively toned manner. The part of the novel “Hard Times” that is presented in “Coketown” is mostly as description by an omniscient narrator who gives us a very graphic presentment of the town in which the two characters, Mr. Bounderby and Gradgrind roam, whom the author chooses to ignore for the rest of the text, as he proceeds to picturesquely describe what he calls
Coketown. Coketown is depicted as a very monotonous place completely built from the same materials being red brick stone that, due to heavy pollution, have been dyed a very murky tint, from the massive amount of smoke coming from a lot of machinery and numerous chimneys. The smoke coming from these chimneys is described like menacing “… serpents of smoke… ” (l. 9). These serpents resemble a biblical reference, as in the snake of Paradise; the devil.
And the fact that these “snakes” cling to everything in Coketown in the form of black soot gives the mpression that everything is covered in viciousness, corruption and evil; and under that thick layer of dirt is a red bricked city that looks the same everywhere you look. There is no diversity. Instead we have a place where “The Jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the Jail, the town-hall might have been either, or both, or anything else, … ” (l. 34-36). He describes Coketown as a place that might as well be one big prison that holds its citizens captive, without them noticing.
There’s so little diversity in this place that the whole town Just as well might be one big unity, that doesn’t serve any other purpose than a workplace. This tells us something about the way the booming industrialization needed fast growing cities to keep the evolving expansion flowing, hence the unvaried type of construction, which Dickens openly criticizes. It is not only the architectonics that Dickens so negatively describes in the excerpt. The residents of Coketown are also very unfavorably narrated in the sense of being without diversity like the appearance of the town; “. nhabited by people equally like one another went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next. ” (l. 16-19). Here we see a clear opinion of the kind of people who live in a booming industrialized city. We can only imagine how their Jobs must have been like; maybe working at a sort of a factory where you endlessly do the same thing used, thus producing an apathetic and indifferent individual that might as well be he person next door with the same daily routine.
People turn into a great big monotony that, like mentioned in the quote, almost move in unison and thereby make the same sound when walking upon the pavements, almost like a troop of soldiers marching, who are unable to think for themselves. This identicalness of Coketown and industrialization make people so. Residents are losing their individuality, and instead become like the machines they handle. Dickens uses the metaphor, “. the piston (… ) worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state f melancholy madness. (l. 12-14), where he compares the trunked animal to a lifeless but moving object, that’s linked to how people live their lives in Coketown; monotonously like a piston: emotionless like a machine, slowly going insane. A central theme of this excerpt is the way that individuality and spirituality are tossed aside and industrial advancement gaining significance. Religion has lost its purpose; the church that’s described as a “… warehouse of red brick, sometimes (… ) a bell in a birdcage on the top of it. ” (l. 8-30).
The church is Just as meaningful as either of the smog covered brick buildings. It has no purpose other than being there. “Fact, fact, fact. ” (l. 37) the author throws disapproving opinions in the readers face in an almost violent manner, like he really despises what he’s writing of. Everything is made up of emptiness without meaning and he’s sick of it. He probably thinks himself as a much more enlightened human being who sees the truth of Coketown that Just as well may be any industrial city, that’s made from bricks. Just bricks.