Write a brief critical appraisal of what you think Dickens’s main complaints are about Coketown – from the passage we explored in tutorials today.

It is apparent that Dickens outlines the many wrongs of Coketown in his novel, Hard Times, through syntax, imagery, word choices, and several other literary devices. Dickens’s sentence structure is very lyrical and repetitious to emphasise the quotidian lifestyles of people in Coketown:

It contained several large streets like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound up 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.

The word choices of “same”, “every day” and “equally” gives the reader an impression that there is no sign of individuality within the community of Coketown, and that they’re almost like a machine, as they are programmed to do the same things in the same way every day. This also builds visual imagery of a dystopian society, similar to George Orwell’s novel 1984. Another example of visual imagery is when Dickens utilises a metaphor to establish the gloomy atmosphere of the town: “serpents of smoke”, the word choice of “serpent” and “smoke” could also symbolise some form of evilness that lurks in the town.

The employment of elongated sentences throughout the chapter establishes a prayer-like tone, the idea of this passage being a prayer is reinforced in the last elongated sentence that ends with a reference to the glory be: “world without end, Amen”. Another reason why this passage is almost like a prayer, is because he critiques the monotonous atmosphere of the town through elongated sentences, so when the reader reads these long sentences, it is hard to pause and breathe. This makes it seem like Dickens is preaching and praying for the town, revealing a sermonising quality in the novel.


Works Cited

Dickens, Charles, and Roland John. Hard Times. 1st ed. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman, 1995. Print.