The Industrial Revolution, a period of time from 1760 until about 1840, marked a turning point in history as it was a period where almost every part of the daily life was influenced. This time period is most notably characterized by the change from hand production to machines. It was during this time that Capitalism first took flight and when coupled with other factors such as outdated labor laws and distinctly stratified socioeconomic classes, it put unparalleled stress on the lives of the working class. Charles Dickens', Hard Times, focused overwhelmingly on the rise of industrialist utilitarian thought and the overall effect on society. The Industrial Revolution is further characterized and also portrayed by Dickens as a period of dehumanization, victimization, and alienation.
Dickens, along with many theorists of the time, believed that industrialization led to dehumanization or a more "robotic," way of life for workers. Dickens highlights this through his character Thomas Gradgrind. Thomas is described as "A man of facts and calculations" (Dickens 6), and, "a man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into for allowing over" (6). Thomas believes that it is ideal to be a person of fact and not to have any fanciful thought; this way of thinking creates a more productive individual. Furthermore, it is common assumption that during the industrial revolution, factory owners viewed the numerous amounts of workers as worth nothing more than the net monetary gain they produced. .
Dickens further showcases the atomization of this life through the portrayal of Coketown itself. "Coketown contained several large streets all very like one another inhibited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements to do the same work" (16).