Discuss the significance of Fact and Fancy in Hard Times with particular reference to Dickens’ presentation of the worlds of Sleary’s circus and Coketown. You should focus closely on techniques used and effects created and how both of these things shape our response, as readers, to the text.
Dickens uses a range of techniques to present the idea of the importance of and contrast between Fact and Fancy, such as the settings of the contrasting ‘worlds’ in the novel, imagery, and the very language he uses. Dickens lived in an era of growing industrial powers, where the ‘hands’ inside ravenous factories were many and depersonalised. With such an economy rapidly expanding, it could be considered the only logical that the value placed upon emotion, leisure and human compassion was hastily replaced by a focus on work ethic, greed and a strong class segregation. The rapid changes of the time benefited some people long before others. Dickens is concerned with those still waiting for improvements and raises key moral and social questions in his writing, mainly focusing upon the need for schooling, the cruelty to and corruption of children, the problems arising from rapid industrialisation and the problems created by emphasis on social class and newly acquired wealth. All of which can be seen in Hard Times. Dickens was, however criticised in his time. Gissing said that he “did not know the North of England” and that the character of Blackpool was a “mere model of meekness”. So this perceived representation of the industrial town and working class characters could be looked at sceptically by readers.
To present the differences between fact and fancy Dickens uses setting: an important technique at his disposal to instil in the readers mind a clear visualisation of the differentiating places using imagery not just simple description. In this case the contrast between harsh industry and the compassion of human nature. Dickens describes Coketown as “a town of machinery...
Bibliography: Dickens, Hard Times, Penguin Classics (July 2007)
George Gissing “Dickens and the Working Class” (1898)
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