Charles Dickens was a writer who focused on the lives of poor and unprotected people. He tried to provoke social and political changes by presenting the atrocities which people from the lower classes had to face on a daily basis. Hard Times is a novel that provides an insight into the world of the Victorian period in a fictional Coketown. Even though it is considered by many critics the weakest work in Dickens’ bibliography, it still contains the events which were inspired by real situations. It is an analysis of the horrific world where children have to labor on a dangerous and harmful job.
Therefore, the novel can be used as an exploration of the ordinary life in an extreme environment of the ordinary town at that time. The Industrial Revolution established a new stage in the history of humankind. The newly constructed factories significantly influenced the domestic economy. The owners of factories became obsessed with the profits; therefore, they forced to work everyone, even children were not spared. Furthermore, the legislation did have any legal regulations regarding safety in a workplace, a minimum wage, a working day, or the weekend. In my field, children will have to work hard mentally; however, it does not influence physical state of the individual as negatively as hard labor.
Children and adults were slaves, and Dickens is able to mirror this idea in Hard Times. Children with parents were relatively luckier as they could become apprentices. However, orphans were seen as the resources for “free labor” (Dickens, 2013, p. 7). The children were deprived of their childhood and even imagination. The novel starts with Mr. Gradgrind’s famous monologue, where he demands “facts and root everything else out” (Dickens, 2013, p. 12). Teachers and parents see children as tools for daily tasks. Nowadays, in the developed countries, the legislature prohibits child labor and considers it as a crime (Dutta, 2014). Additionally, children are protected by national and international regulations which force parents to take care of their children, sustain them, and help them in physical and mental growth. However, in many underdeveloped countries children work together with adults for 15 hours per day (Dutta, 2014).
Children also had to work because their families lived in severe poverty. As stated above, many families could not afford food, clothes, and some shelter. Each member of a family had to earn money one way or another; there were not any options because of the lack of employment opportunities (Dutta, 2014). Therefore, adults and children worked in the heavy industry to earn at least something. In many cases, children also went to work because an employer provided some food. Although the quality of food was low and typically business owners gave as less food as possible, it was a better option than starving. Apart from that, some factories had houses, where employers could live (Dutta, 2014). The conditions were atrocious because there was not any heating system or even windows. However, there were not any alternatives to the dangerous and lethal conditions in the workplace.
The health care system of the Victorian era was not effective; therefore, children did not have access to the medical services in case of diseases or injuries. The novel clearly depicts the habitual day in life of the children when they sleep in a cold house, hungry, and tired. Typically, children had to manage the diseases in their own way. At the same time, they also had to continue to work. The modern legislature protects children in every field of their lives because they cannot be competent for their decisions (Dutta, 2014). Partially, the approval of laws which secure children’s lives is a result of the atrocities in the 19th century. It is a natural reaction to stop abuse of helpless members of society and increase their quality of life.
Dickens, C. (2013). Hard times. Toronto, Ontario: HarperPerennial Classics.
Dutta, A. (2014). Children in Dickens’s novels. International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature, 2(2). Web.