The Body Economic: Life, Death, and Sensation in Political Economy and the Victorian Novel

By Catherine Gallagher | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
Hard Times and the Somaeconomics
of the Early Victorians

There is no joy in the Coketown of Dickens's Hard Times. Its people are unhappy, like the city dwellers in other industrial novels, but the source of their misery is atypical. Their suffering does not seem to derive from uncommonly wretched living and working conditions. Our first walk through Coketown's deadening regularity contrasts tellingly with, for example, the constantly obstructed passage through Manchester's chaotic squalor in one of the early chapters of Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton (chapter 6). Whereas Gaskell's narrator gives us a complete sanitarian's nightmare—a street soaked with urine, cluttered with rubbish heaps and ashes, and lined with fetid, oozing cellar dwellings—Dickens's narrator gives us a dry and schematic premise in the place of a human environment. Coketown is made of figures almost as abstract as those of the despised statisticians, and they are laid out for us in the keynote paragraph with a repetitiousness of sentence structure as monotonous as a ledger book's:

[I]t was a town of red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a
town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents
of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had
a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and
vast piles of buildings … where the pistons of the steam-engine worked
monotonously up and down like the head of an elephant in a state of melan-
choly madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another,
and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people
equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with
the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to
whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year
the counterpart of the last and the next.…
You saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful.1

In this novel the most pervasive problem attending industrialism is not factory hours, low wages, child labor, dangerous machinery, unsanitary housing and

1Hard Times, eds. George Ford and Sylvere Monod (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966), 17. All
subsequent quotations from the novel are from this edition and page numbers are given in the text of
the essay.

-62-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Body Economic: Life, Death, and Sensation in Political Economy and the Victorian Novel
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 209

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.