Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Where does Dickens detail the ill effects of industrialization in Hard Times?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One way Dickens details the ill effects of industrialization in Coketown is through the miserable lives of Bounderby's factory workers. To owners like Bounderby, the workers are simply another part of his factory machine, and he considers them demanding and spoiled. They want, he says with great exaggeration, to be fed turtle soup with gold spoons. In reality, their lives are so harsh that they organize to strike for better conditions.

Dickens shines a particular light on one worker, Stephen Blackpool, who operates a loom in the factory and has aged beyond his years. He is described as follows:

Stephen looked older, but he had had a hard life. It is said that every life has its roses and thorns; there seemed, however, to have been a misadventure or mistake in Stephen's case, whereby somebody else had become possessed of his roses, and he had become possessed of the same somebody else's thorns in addition to his own.

A good man, Stephen refuses to strike with the other workers but also refuses to snitch on the strikers and reveal their plans to Bounderby. Bounderby fires him, and Stephen ends up dying when he falls down a mineshaft.

Industrialization in Hard Times brings masses of people hard work at very low pay in dehumanizing conditions.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would say that Dickens' detailing of the ill effects of industrialization lies in the depiction of Thomas Gradgrind's mentality and teaching to his children.  Dickens makes the unique argument that one of the most disastrous elements of the industrialization time period was that it ushered in a particular way of thoughts that created havoc in the lives of human beings.  Gradgrind's excessively methodical penchant for "fact not fancy" is a product of industrialization.  This characterization that Dickens offers is one in which individuals do not see outside of cold analysis, hard line facts, and economic desires for mergers and acquisitions.  When Louisa criticizes her father for failing to teach her anything of emotional intelligence and when Thomas sees his son having become morally bankrupts, Dickens has developed a stunningly convincing argument that one of the ill effects of industrialization was to perceive life in one way of thought.  This manner of thought is one that reduces the emotional complexity of life to something base and financially driven.  In this, Dickens is able to detail an ill effect, a destructive one, of industrialization.

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