The living and working conditions for factory laborers in these towns were extremely poor, and the wealthy bourgeoisie prospered marvelously by greedily exploiting their employees, unfortunate people who toiled long hours in grimy factories to barely earn their subsistence.
Dickens advances this theme persistently throughout the Hard Times, employing frequent use of descriptive imagery and metaphor throughout novel to animate the conflict between Fact and Fancy, and the result of this emphasis is a broader, encompassing critique of industrialized society in general.
Dickens most clearly addresses fact and fancy through his portrayal of the education system in Coketown.
Just as Gadgrind rigorously enforces his utilitarian standards in his school, he is equally fervent in adhering to these principles in his own home.
He genuinely believes that his ideals are essential to leading a successful, productive existence, and instructs his children accordingly, applying his “mechanical art and mystery of educating the reason without stooping to the cultivation of the sentiments and affections.” Louisa and Tom must absorb enormous amounts of factual knowledge from an early age, while, simultaneously, their father systematically represses and eradicates any notions of wonder or imagination that they might entertain, chiding them, “Never wonder! Gradgrind seeks through his parental guidance to elicit the same results as in his school–the transformation of children into machine-like workers, lacking in personality yet supposedly ideal for efficiently performing the monotonous, repetitive labors of industrial Coketown.