Alternatively, Dickens – in the form of a self-conscious narrator – could just explicitly state, “Gradgrind is no longer the man he originally was, he has no self-confidence or direction,” instead of applying irony. However, the quotation above could be interpreted differently; “… considering how to go on. ” could suggest that Gradgrind, as an industrialist, is carefully planning what to do or say next to persuade his daughter to accept what he may well see as a ‘business proposal’.
The former part of the quotation, about Gradgrind playing with the paper knife could just imply that Gradgrind is occupying his hands while carefully planning his next move. In the name of the town, Coketown, Dickens ironically satirises the industrialist era that he was in. The name Coketown, as opposed to something like Cokeby or Cokeworth, is more powerful because it implies that the town is orientated around coke. The irony works because coke, unlike now, is not a soft drink but a fuel. It was burnt in the form of coal to drive turbines, creating energy.
It was also in the production of iron- an essential product in the 19th century. Therefore, Dickens is trying to satirise towns and cities’ focus on coke- therefore fuel and, ultimately, therefore- industrialism. In the fifth chapter of Sowing, Dickens satirises the heavy industry in towns and cities. “It was a town of red brick, or a brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black… ” (Sowing, Chapter V) The quotation above shows Dickens’ discontent in an industrialist town’s scenery. “…
or brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it… ” tells the reader that the red brick was stained by factories’ excreted smoke and ashes. This also implies that the smoke and ashes were not controlled and were released into the atmosphere. This is ironic because the author describes the bricks as being red, yet the bricks are not red. Here, the irony works because the bricks (from the outside) are not red, even though that is the author’s description. The colour red implies the anger of Charles Dickens towards industrialists and industrialism- one of his many satirical targets.
Alternatively, the author may just be implying in the clause, “… as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black… ” that the colours of the cityscape are fine apart from the fact they’re a little strange. The author has not explicitly said that the colours are any symbol his attitude or intent. Towards the end of the second book, Reaping, Dickens uses irony to satirise the nature of Mrs. Sparsit- Bounderby’s housekeeper when she is eavesdropping on the intimate conversation between Louisa (Bounderby’s wife) and James Harthouse. “… the amiable woman in ambuscade… ”
(Reaping, Chapter XI) From the quotation above, it is very clear that Dickens is satirising Mrs. Sparsit using the technique of irony. In this context, the word “amiable” is used in an ironic manner. In everyday context, amiable is defined as having or showing pleasant of good-natured personal qualities. The irony is effective because she is being anything but amiable. The irony here works by using a positive adjective to describe a negative person (Mrs. Sparsit). To satirise the nature of Mrs. Sparsit, Dickens does not have to use irony. Instead he can use descriptive words which are not ironic.
In this case, he could have used words such as scheming, spying to describe her. He could also have substituted the word “woman” to something worse and direct like “spy” or perhaps “shadow” to emphasise that Mrs. Sparsit is always on Louisa and Harthouse’s tails. Alternatively, Dickens may be being serious when describing Mrs Sparsit as “amiable”; morally it can be argued that she is actually being amiable because she is loyal to her former master. She is loyal because she is still working for Bounderby in the sense that she is doing things he cannot do and in this context, it is spying upon Louisa and his guest.
From all the evidence provided, it is apparent that, in the novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens uses irony to satirise industrialism and human nature as well as many other things within the Victorian times that he finds ridiculous or bad. All of the irony is effective because it has shown us the things that Dickens wants to satirise and the irony makes us want to satires those things too. Vinson Yeung 10W English Coursework Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Hard Times section.