Chapter : 5. Novels, Society & History

The World of the Nove

(b) The World of the Novel :
More than other forms of writing which came before, novels are about ordinary people, they are about the everyday life of common people.
(i) Charles Dickens wrote about the terrible effects of industrialization on people's lives and characters. His novel "Hard Times" (1854) describes Coketown, a fictitious industrial town, as a grim place full of machinery, smoking chimneys, rivers polluted purple and buildings that all looked the same. Here workers are known as 'hands', as if they had no identity other than as operators of machines. Dickens criticised not just the greed for profits, but also the ideas that reduced human beings into simple instruments of production. Dickens focused on the terrible conditions of urban life under industrial capitalism. His "Oliver Twist" (1838) is the tale of a poor orphan who lived in a world of petty criminals and beggars. Brought up in a cruel workhouse, Oliver was finally adopted by a wealthy man and lived happily ever after.
(ii) Emile Zola's "Germinal" (1885) on the life of a young miner in France explores in harsh detail the grim conditions of miners lives. It ends on a note of despair, the strike the hero leads fails, his co-workers turn against him, and hopes are shattered.

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