Coketown: Imagery - Without an Image
It has been proven over the years and through the scrutiny of countless professionals that the human mind responds the most effectively to images - be they figurative or physical. The truth is that, when an individual has an image painted in his head, his level of comprehension is drastically improved. Images can be interpreted in numerous ways whether by film, picture or, as in the case of the images portrayed in Hard Times, in printed text. Although no actual physical image is there, there is a powerful image present nonetheless.
The most powerful of these images, employed by Charles Dickens in the novel Hard Times, is the city of Coketown, observed from a hill, through the smog that surrounds it. No matter what is occurring in the story, the characters are always amidst a sombre tone because it is set in Coketown. This reinforces the mood that Dickens adopts throughout the novel. What is created here is a city where dreams go to die.
The image of Coketown is a dreary one: it is a town of "red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it" (Hard Times 30); it is a town where a "sunny midsummer day"(115) is a rarity; it is a town with a river of dye and thousands of "interminable serpents of smoke" (30); and it is a town with a year long "whirr of shafts and wheels" (116). In short, Coketown a place in which no one wants to live. The town is a muddle of emotion and filth as stated in the words of Frederick Busch - "But 'muddle', suggesting confusion, hints at filth, at sewage, at a wet dirtiness. And this...