Significance of Setting in Hard Times
Settings can be classified as scenic, essential, and symbolic. Scenic is self-explanatory; it is there, but it does not influence the story. Essential means that the story could not have happened any other place or at any other time. A symbolic setting is one which plays an important role in the philosophy of the book. Such a setting is Coketown, England. Coketown, with all its brick buildings and its conformity and sterility and the Educational System, is conspicuous as part of the setting. Dickens uses many symbols to convey the horror of the setting: Coketown is the brick jungle; the factories are the mad elephants; the death-bringing smoke is the serpent; the machinery is the monster. The sameness, the conformity, creates an atmosphere of horror. An ironic note in the setting is the paradoxical reference to the blazing furnaces as Fairy Palaces.