Hypocrisy, pompousness and immorality, these are a few of the notions that Dickens successfully adresses and criticizes in his novel Hard Times. Yet Dickens" main point of critique is undoubtedly the upcoming idea of utilitarianism. He brilliantly plays out the two opposites of "hard fact" and "feeling" and leads the reader to the inevitable conclusion that sentiment is more important than factual knowledge. Aiding him in this idea are the characters of this moral fable, each personified in such a way that they represent, or symbolize, a particular positive or negative notion that Dickens encourages or criticizes. One of these characters is the city of Coketown, based on the city of Preston, which seems to have a personality of its own. The city represents the typical manufacturing town of the English midlands around the 1850s, the time in which the novel is set, and plays one of the most important roles.
These factors put together the novel Hard Times is a brilliant work of social criticism, not to mention a fascinating read. .
The place in which the story is set is the manufacturing city of Coketown, based on the city of Preston. Coketown is described as being a very dangerous place and to exemplify this it is compared to a jungle. Dickens associates it with "the painted face of a savage"," interminable serpents" and "the head of an elephant". From the "coiling serpent" we can direct the idea that Coketown is also an immoral and sinful place and the thought of the "black river", an allusion to the river Styx, almost makes it look like hell. All the streets look alike, all the people look alike, their days are all like the previous days and every year the counterpart of the last and next. It is simply a horrible place. Apart from being the embodiment of evil, more importantly, Coketown is also the embodiment of fact. It is a compilation of squares, straight lines and predictable patterns.