Charles Dickens is what we would all think of as the classic writer of Victorian England, and he is leading some people to refer to Victorian England as Dickensian England. In hard times Dickens talks about a northern industrial town called Coketown, although fictional we can work out it is based on the town of Preston which Dickens visited and quickly realised it was a terrible place to be. It is evident as you progress through hard times that the novel is meant to have a meaning, of which there are many, but I wish to focus on how Dickens focuses in on the working classes in the novel and reflects how life is for them.
After reading the novel the obvious candidate to support the above statement would be Stephen Blackpool, although there is no clear hero or heroine within the novel, it is plain to see that Blackpool is the closest thing to one. Why? Well Blackpool, on the surface, is the classic perception of a plain normal worker in Victorian England, but as you delve deeper into him you see that he is more than that. First of all look at his name, Blackpool, a city on the east coast of England, it is now a pleasant seaside town by day and labours a vibrant nightlife but at the time of Dickens it was a dreary, dull, smoke stricken town with not much going for it, it was at the heart of the industrial revolution. Obviously this must have a meaning to Stephen and you realise as you read the novel that it has, he is just a normal worker, stuck in a dead end job, working each day for the next, but yet he gets on with it, no complaining, moaning, just gets on with the job that he is required to do and in which sense you now see how he is a hero.
He doesn’t save lives, put out fires or anything like that but instead he just gets on with his life, no complaining, just does his job. He works in the midst of the industrial revolution in a black, smoggy, dark factory, in conditions that today would just not be allowed by law yet he carries on doing what he does with no complaining, his superior rules over him in a manner that is harsh and unnecessary yet he treats him with respect even though that is the last thing he deserves.
Blackpool is a man of realities, even though others are perceived as this in the novel he is the only actual person that is. He is a man of realities in the sense that he doesn’t see anything as getting better and he realises that, in his lifetime, conditions for workers are unlikely to change and so he knows he has to do what he has to do. He is again looked at as a hero after Dickens uses the words: ‘somebody else had become possessed of his roses, and he had become possessed of the same somebody else’s thorns in addition to his own’
This says that what has happened in Blackpool’s case is that he has had all his good times taken from him and has been left with only bad times, along with the other individuals bad times as well. Now if you think about what is related to the word thorns, Jesus, in a very much religious country it is plain to see that Dickens is hinting at Blackpool being a modern representation of Jesus. Jesus wore a crown of thorns and died on the cross to help us leave behind our sins, he suffered for our sins, and although Blackpool is not dying for our sins he is in fact representing all that work in the Dickensian era and that he takes the brunt of the pain just to earn money for those superior to him.
Things that are also evident in the novel is the use of satire to put down all social classes, apart from the working classes, whom the author sees in a greater light and shows that he believes in them. Mr Bounderby for example is a member of the upper classes and quite fittingly Dickens enjoys mocking him, again through satire, the quote that springs to mind is ‘A man made out of a coarse material, which seemed to have stretched to make so much of him’ Dickens uses this to show his opinion on the rising, greedy middle classes.
Mr Bounderby is very large, which indicates greed, and very loud, which Dickens then mocks strongly. The quote describes Bounderby as being stretched out as to make room for all his big headedness, imagine for example a normal man with an unusually large head, although vague you can see how Dickens tries to portray that Bounderby believes strongly that he is well above the other classes in the pecking order which we later find out he deserves to be much lower.