Charles Dickens became largely known for masterful his style of writing as he published his serialized novels. He wrote Hard Times set in Industrial Revolution, a time when Europe underwent a major economic change, industrialization. This transformation reshaped the class system in major industrial cities of Europe, including the fictional city of Coketown. Dickens used the story of Hard Times to convey a message about the new class distinctions and convey how terrible and mechanized the lives of factory workers were during the industrial era.
Dickens was able to do this subtly through his own unique writing style where each sentence, even each word, had a second, deeper meaning that the reader had to discover by closely reading each passage. Through his style of writing, Dickens places intentional emphasis on his ideas and also illustrates the divide between factory owners and industrial workers in Coketown. Among the many figures of speech, or literary elements, Dickens utilizes metaphors, repetition, and juxtaposition. Alliteration and imagery are sprinkled throughout Chapter 11 of Hard Times.
Dickens uses alliteration to place emphasis on certain phrases or groups of words, making them stand out from the rest of his text. Examples of Dickens’s alliteration include, “Serpents of smoke… clattering of clogs… rapid ringing… Melancholy-mad elephants… serpents of smoke, submissive…” (71). The serpents of smoke help show how the city is filled with smog. This smoke not only represents the city’s poor air quality but also serves as a symbol for the poor quality of the people and of life in Coketown. The use of imagery provides the reader with a mental picture to better understand the story; it makes writing more interesting and vivid.
There are two categories of imagery represented in “No Way Out” of Hard Times, tactile and visual. The words used by Dickens to represent tactile imagery include, “Flaming lights within… hot mill… damp wind and cold wet streets, haggard and worn… ” (71-72). The words used to represent visual imagery include, “A red house… black outside shutters, green inside blinds, a black street door, up two white steps, BOUNDERBY (in letters very like himself) upon a brazen plate… round brazen door-handle…” (72). Bounderby is also depicted atop a hill to show he is above all of the working “Hands” of his factories.
Dickens uses these two separate forms of imagery to even further demonstrate a split between the upper and working classes of the industrial era. All tactile and other imagery used to represent the working class brings an ominous and uncomfortable feel to the reader, whereas the visual imagery used to represent Bounderby has a warm, welcoming, decorative tone. Dickens also utilizes literary elements besides alliteration and imagery to subtly shove his ideas in the mind of the reader. Dickens uses repetition to link his writing across paragraphs.
Repetition is shown when Dickens writes, “The day grew strong… and the work went on… The work went on…” across the span of two full paragraphs (71). Dickens also uses juxtaposition to de-humanize the Hands when he writes, “The looms, and wheels, and Hands, all out of gear for and hour” (72). This sentence compares the human Hands to a part of a machine that is out of work. The final way that Dickens exaggerates the split between the owners and workers is through diction. Such word choice includes, “Stephen bent over his loom… as every man was in the forest of looms where Stephen worked…” (71).
Showing Stephen bent over illustrates how uncomfortable it is to work in the factories. Like many contemporaries, Charles Dickens frequently uses figurative language to make his writing more engaging. Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times during the time of the Industrial Revolution. This time period was a transition period from agriculture to factories controlling the economies. As factories began to take the main stage, society began to mold itself around them. Factory owners were much higher up on the social ladder than the men who worked in them.
Factory workers drove the economy because they were the ones who were producing goods to be sold. However, they were not treated as well as they should have been because they were so much lower on the social ladder. Dickens writes about what is happening in the real world as it is happening. In Hard Times, there is a huge split between Bounderby and Blackpool and the rest of the workers, who are referred to as the Hands. By calling the workers Hands, it takes away any personality and individuality that the workers might have possessed in the eyes of Bounderby.
They become a single, collective body with no personality. Dickens writes, “It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what the engine will do; but, not all the calculators of the National Debt can tell me the capacity for good and evil… in the soul of one of its quiet servants…” (71). To the boss, they are simply mindless machines meant to produce a certain amount of goods by the end of each day. According to Dickens, there were, “So many hundred Hands in this Mill; so many hundred horse Steam Power” (71).
In reality there were several hundred individuals, but Bounderby only saw the Hands as an engine with a set amount of energy. Each worker has his or her own story; Stephen Blackpool’s story is a huge component in Dickens’s novel. Blackpool begs for a divorce from his insane, alcoholic wife, saying, “So, I mun to be ridden o’ this woman, an I want t’know how? ” (75). He says this so he might pursue Rachael, the woman he loves. Bounderby replies, “No how,” because he does not care about the personal affairs of his employees (75). To him, they are not humans and they do not have emotions.
Bounderby sees them as people who are too lazy to work hard enough to make it the way that he had made it, since he supposedly came from the same rung on the social ladder as his employees. Dickens’s style of writing utilized many uses of alliteration, imagery, and ambiguity. He uses this style to show how major the split was between the factory owners and industrial workers. Dickens also illustrates this split through the dehumanization Stephen and his band of Hands. Dickens, Charles. “No Way Out. ” Hard Times. 1854. Reprint. London: Penguin Group, 1995. 71-78. Print.