Hard Times Essay examples

846 Words 4 Pages
Historical Context
Industrial Conditions
During the early nineteenth century, the use of the power loom [a steam-powered, mechanically operated version of a regular loom, an invention that combined threads to make cloth], which had been patented in 1785, rapidly became more widespread. This had a deleterious [injurious to health] effect on the hand loom weavers, who could not compete with the power loom and could no longer find sufficient work.
By the time Dickens wrote Hard Times, power looms were the norm and hand weaving was almost extinct. Because of this development, weavers were gradually driven from their home-based weaving to the factories in the towns, which grew rapidly in population. The new factory workers put in ten-hour
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(This recalls Bounderby's threat in Hard Times to have Slackbridge and other union delegates arrested on felony [a grave crime] charges and shipped off to penal settlements.)
Dickens took an interest in the conflict and visited Preston to get an idea of the mood and the conditions of life there. He attended a union delegate meeting, which gave him material for the Slackbridge episodes in Hard Times, and in general he gained a favourable impression of the workers and their representatives, as he recorded in his article, "On Strike," which was published in Household Words in February, 1854. Dickens wrote in conclusion:
The Preston strikers found it increasingly difficult to survive on what they were receiving in contributions from other unions, and when the contributions began to fall off in April 1854, the strike collapsed. The strike leader was thrown into jail for debts he incurred during the strike.
In 1854, there was no system of compulsory schooling in England. This was not to be established until the Elementary Education Act of 1870, the year of Dickens's death. However, there was, at the time a large number of schools, differing widely in quality, methods of funding and organization, and the type of pupil who attended. The school that Gradgrind is so proud of was a non-fee-paying school for students of the lower classes, of which there were many. There was a general feeling among the educated classes that

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