Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Discuss Dickens’s representation of the city in Hard Times

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In this novel, just as in others, Dickens takes the industrialised city as his main focus and explores how the polluted, smog-filled environment has an impact on the characters that try to eke out an existence within it. Dickens in his work was sharply critical of industrialisation and the conditions of squalor and urban poverty that developed as a result. In this novel he critiques an approach to business and to employees that treats them as just cogs in a machine and profoundly dehumanises them, rather than recognising them as human beings in their own right. Note how Coketown is described in the following quotation from Book the Second, Chapter...

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The city 'Coketown' is so prevalent an image in the novel that it almost becomes a character. It draws on the experience that Dickens had on visits to Manchester and Preston (Northern English Industrial centres) where he was moved by what he saw. His description of Coketow is a mixture of the reality of life in an industrial city in Northern England and his style of writing (his almost childlike images of the mad elephants and the soke serpents (see 'The Keynote' for more detailed description.)