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Hard Times Critical Essays

Charles Dickens


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Topic # 1
In his representation of Coketown and what he calls the “fictions of Coketown,” the ideas and attitudes that make it what it is, Dickens is doing more than offer incidental description of a city in the north of England. Dickens means Coketown to stand for the negative aspects of industrial society as a whole.

Outline
I. Thesis Statement: The city Dickens calls Coketown is meant to portray the pollution, ugliness, monotony, and health-destroying aspects of the new social order in England brought about by the industrial revolution and the social attitudes and prejudices that sustain it.

II. The city is polluted, ugly, monotonous, and unhealthy
A. Pollution
1. Atmosphere thick with smoke and soot
2. Heaps of coal, litter, machinery
3. Dye from the cotton fabric is in the river and the canal is black and foul-smelling
B. Ugliness
1. The formless, unplanned nature of the city
2. The ostentation of Bounderby’s residence
3. The meanness of Stephen’s habitation and neighborhood
4. Neighborhoods half built up and half torn down by the railway
C. Monotony
1. The sameness of the work
2. The streets and buildings all built to be identical to one another
3. All public inscriptions painted alike
4. Sirens and bells each day
D. Health-destroying aspects of the city
1. Smoke-filled air
2. Smell of oil penetrating everywhere
3. Noise of the factories
4. Dangerous machinery
5. Abandoned coal pits

III. Ideas about society and prejudices circulated in Coketown by mill owners and men of business, political economists and Utilitarians, Parliamentary commissioners and schoolmasters
A. Workers are machines
1. They can be measured exactly for their horsepower
2. They need enjoy no significant leisure time
3. No care should be expended on how they might re¬create themselves
4. Workers’ feelings are never to be consulted
B. Human life holds no mysteries
1. Everything either is or should be the result of ra¬tion¬al calculation
2. Workers are told never to ask questions and to take everything on faith
3. Material interest underlies all human actions
C . Factory workers are basically lazy and want money and luxury without working for it
1. Bounderby’s favorite saying about turtle soup and gold spoons
2. The idea that real butter, fresh bread, sugar, and tea are extravagant luxuries when consumed by workers

IV. Conclusion: Dickens’ Coketown represents the negative aspects of the industrial revolution, the social order it created, and the ideas and attitudes that sustained it.

Topic # 2
Sissy Jupe’s influence as a character

Outline
I. Thesis Statement: Sissy Jupe has a strong influence on the events in the novel and on the emotional lives of those to whom she is attached.
II. Influences events
A. Gets rid of Harthouse
1. Goes to him in a self-appointed capacity as Louisa’s ambassador
2. Tells him he must never see her again
3. Is not put off by his fine, gentlemanly airs
4. Is sure of herself throughout the encounter
B. Helps discover Blackpool

(The entire section is 1,374 words.)

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Hard Times Homework Help Questions

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