Dickens was born in England in 1812. He had an unhappy childhood because his father went in prison for debt and he had to work in a factory: these days of suffering inspired much of the content of his novel.
When he realized that he had a talent for writing, he taught himself and became a journalist at the Parliament and Law Courts. In his articles he described London people and scenes with humorous and satirical attitude but his success continued with the novels in which he exposed the exploited lives of children in the slums and factories. (David Copperfield, Oliver Twist). Other novels set against the background of social issues, highlighting the conditions of the poor and the working class (Hard times).
He spent his last years travelling round giving theatrical readings of his own work. He died in 1870.
Dickens was a storyteller. His novel were influenced by the 18th century novelist, by the Bible, fairy tales, fables etc... His plots were well-planned but, certainly, the condition of publication installments discouraged unified plotting and created pressure on Dickens to conform to the public taste in fact, if a character wasn’t appreciated by the readers, it was overshadowed and the writer went on with another trail.
London was the setting of most of his novels: he described it in realistic details and he was aware of the spiritual and material corruption under the impact of industrialism and he became critical of society. According to him, the city was the symbol of the illness.
He was always on the side of poor and outcast, in fact his characters were from the middle and lower classes. He wrote especially about children whom, in his novels, were the moral teacher of their worthless parents, they were the examples instead of the imitators.
His didactic aim was to make children the models of the way people ought to behave to one another; he didn’t want to induce revolution, but to make aware all the different classes of the society about the evils and the bad situations of the present. For this reason his works are called “bildungsroman”.
Hard Times is a novel set in an imaginary industrial town called Coketown.
This novel uses his characters and stories to denounce the gap between the rich and the poor and to criticize the materialism and the Utilitarianism, which was the bases of Victorian attitude to economics.
At Dickens’s time there were a great difference between the factory owners and workers, who were forced to work long hours for low pay in dirty, loud and dangerous factory. These workers had few options for improving their terrible living and working conditions because they were lacked of education.