Industrialization in the Victorian Era

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A novelist who knew how to picture everyday life in an impressive blend of reality, humour, and striking details is one of many statements that could characterize Victorian literature's greatest creator of human life, Charles Dickens. Being a sharp social critic and an avid observer of society, the novelist succeeds in helping his readers understand the goods or the evils of the world, illustrated through the means of eye-opening pieces of art, an appropriate equivalent for his novels. The present paper attempts to analyze the process of Industrialization in England and its effects on the population in one of Dickens's most controversial novels Hard Times, a detailed and crushingly realistic portrayal of an industrialized society in all its aspects. Dickens chose the subject of this novel based on his own experience in the manufacturing world, but also as a tribute for the oppressed factory workers; therefore, as Hilary Schor stated, the novel should not be read "as a mere fictional world, but as a commentary on a contemporary crisis" (Jordan, J., 2001: 67). By writing this novel, Dickens sparked the readers' interest in what is called the Industrial Revolution, with all the major changes brought by it, including social, educational, economical, political, and even geographical developments. Dickens's popularity consisted in his ability to address all social classes, from high society to the poor; the Queen read and appreciated him, as did the humble factory worker. This study contains three chapters: The Life and Works of Charles Dickens, The Industrial Revolution, Industrialization in Charles Dickens's 'Hard Times'. The purpose of these chapters is to offer a view on the novelist's life and work, an account of the Industrial Revolution, as well as an analysis of the influence of this historical event on England's population and education as seen by Dickens. The first chapter, The Life and Works of Charles Dickens, follows the novelist's life and works from his birth to his passing away. Born at a time when Industrialization began to shape its form, Dickens experienced factory life sooner than he had ever imagined, a period of his life that would often be a source of inspiration for his masterpieces. This experience had an impact on his ideas, and approach to life, broadening his imagination and making him develop an acute sense of observation. Despite not having a proper education, Dickens read extensively and had multiple sources of inspiration that made him pursue a career as a novelist. The success of his works is the validation of his incredible talent and naturalness in writing. Hence, this chapter also presents an analysis of Dickens's literary activity by brief overviews of his novels, where the influence of major writers can be easily noticed. In the second chapter, The Industrial Revolution, the focus is placed on the respective historical period of time, and on the effects it had on several life aspects. The foundation of the Industrial Revolution is represented by the Factory System, along with the invention of powerful machinery that led to the development of Industry. Starting from agricultural occupations, to the cotton industry and reaching the factories, the concept of work shifted from manual labour to work assisted by heavy machinery, infinitely faster and productive, that gave the Industrial Revolution what it needed to take over England, and eventually, the whole world. Socially speaking, the ordinary worker started to lose control over his own business, and had to work in factories, where he lost his/her identity in the multitude of workers. Furthermore, this chapter shows the conditions in which the increased population of England had to work, the atrocious exploitation of children and the changes regarding the family institution, as well as the outcome of the Industrial Revolution, and its influence on the literature of that time. In chapter III, Industrialization in Charles Dickens's Hard Times, the novel in question becomes the central point of attention, by presenting the context of publication, several aspects regarding the starting point of the novel and the sources of inspiration, the themes, title, structure and a plot overview, highlighting the main events. Special emphasis is laid on the illustration of Industrialism in the novel, by analyzing particular characteristics of the town, of people's life, of the industry, and the effects of Industrialization. Education is another aspect presented in this chapter, a subject on which Dickens dwelt extensively, indicating that reason and a fact-based education are worthless without feelings and emotions. Lastly, the purpose of this paper is to display an account of Charles Dickens's life and literary heritage, concentrating on the Industrial Revolution as perceived by the author. The novel Hard Times was chosen for discussion, being the most appropriate one regarding this subject, fully reflecting Dickens's indisputable genius.

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Richard Arkwright's spinning frame, p. 4, Chapter II:

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