The Rich, The Poor & The Dead

Every day a boy comes sharp at eight in the morning. He looks desolate, with a ragged bag to show for his work and life. Mechanically with acquired dexterity he takes out the motley garbage, using his bare, foggy hands. The bag is longer than he is. He looks wasted. That’s the worst part. He looks wasted.

…………………

I sit here, writing, sipping coffee, in my own secure world. I have worries that’ll make you laugh. I can afford to think. I am that rich. I can afford to dream. I am that rich. I can afford to love. I am that rich. In my structured happiness, in my ancestral privileges, I live like a king. I have worries that’ll make you laugh. I can afford to speak. I am that rich.

…………………

Hard Times by Charles Dickens was published in 1854. The novel was a staunch criticism of Utilitarianism, the philosophy of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The dismal proceedings take place in the equally dismal fictional place called Coketown. The story revolves around the utterly and annoyingly honest laborer Stephen Blackpool, the ridiculous humbug and a wealthy manufacturer Josiah Bounderby, his “eminently practical” friend Thomas Gradgrind, who is neck deep in the dry theories of Utilitarianism, and who is betrayed by the same beliefs as he sees what irreparable damage his ideology has caused his son Tom, and his daughter Louisa. We’ll discuss about James Harthouse and Mrs. Sparsit, two of the most interesting and wicked characters some another time. Today I just want to share this passage when Dickens explains for the first time, the fictional but ever so real and ever so haunting Coketown:

Image

It was a town of red brick, or of 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 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 building full
of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day
long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked
monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state
of melancholy 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.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  That’s all.

………

Photo Courtesy: www.ralphmag.org

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