Find and explain a reference, expression, or saying in this section (Chapters 9–16)  of Hard Times with which you are unfamiliar, either because it is British or because it is tied to the time...

Find and explain a reference, expression, or saying in this section (Chapters 9–16)  of Hard Times with which you are unfamiliar, either because it is British or because it is tied to the time period in which this book was written.

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nathangarton | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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In spite of the fictional nature of Coketown, the language in Hard Times reflects realistically on 'class dialects' in Victorian England. The character of Stephen Blackpool represents the ill-treated and victimised working class, who, nevertheless, has a virtuous and noble heart. He stands out in the novel because he can be rather difficult for modern readers to make out at times. His British dialect seems to be generally 'northern' - probably an attempt at a Lancashire or Yorkshire accent.

"I ha' read i' th' papers that great folk ... are not bonded together for better for worse so fast, but that they can be set free fro' their misfortnet marriages, and marry ower agen. When they dunnot agree, for that their tempers is ill-sorted, they has rooms o' one kind an another in their houses, above a bit, and they can live asunders." (Chapter 11).

The meandering, long winded syntax, as well as the pronunciation here characterises Stephen as being decidedly lower class and un-educated. He also uses vocabulary that is, at times, akin to Middle English:

"I were in a fact'ry when a chilt, but I ha' gotten een (eyes) to see wi' and eern (ears) to year (hear) wi'." (Chapter 11)

Dickens' use of a regionalised British accent and dialect here heightens the message that 'class' and wealth do not have any correlation to humanity, 'heart' and nobility. Indeed, in Dickens' novels, it is often the upper class, 'educated' characters (Gradgrind and Choakumchild - consider the implications of their names - consider also the character of Scrooge) who have lost their humanity. Dickens was acutely aware of social divisions in class and wealth and many of his novels (Oliver Twist is another example) explore this dilemma and give voice to the oppressed and marginalised members of society.

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