What is the significance of Coketown in the novel Hard Times?

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We are introduced properly to Coketown, the major setting of this excellent Dickensian novel, in Chapter 5 of Book the First. It is described in a way that forces us to see the link between Mr. Gradgrind's educational and utilitarian philosophy and Bounderby's approach to work, as it is a "triumph of fact":

It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but, as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black...

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