Welcome to the Final Level - Adventures in Coketown

Set anywhere, side by side, the work of God and the work of man; and the former, even though it be a troop of Hands of very small account, will gain in dignity from the comparison. (71)

The measured motion of [the machines'] shadows on the [factory] walls was the substitute Coketown had to show for the shadows of rustling woods; while, for the summer hum of insects, it could offer, all the year round, from the dawn of Monday to the night of Saturday, the whirr of shafts and wheels. (112)

-Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1854


The debates at Pegasus' Arms as well as the fates of certain characters you've observed have you thinking about a lot in terms of the results of your years-long research. You realize that the future of modernity is here in Coketown, and that the old, pastoral world of classical literature is now a collective memory of humanity's past. The landscapes of man's memories have been replaced by the cityscapes of the future. As the picture below illustrates, the dignified "work of God" has been replaced by the haphazard "work of man." But what has been the cost of this transformation? Is it the irreparable destruction of nature? The loss of human happiness? The divisions of social class? The growth of poverty and human crowding?

How should one live in the brave new world of post-industrial existence - a world where change is frequent and full of unexpected consequences? Should one entertain fanciful notions to "return to nature" or should we accept the fact that the future is inevitable and prepare accordingly? What would the Friends of Fancy say? And how would the Philosophes of Fact respond?

Before pursuing the questions further, you return to your room at the Travellers' Coffee House to prepare for your last set of observations of the Gradgrinds, Bounderbys, and other characters from your sociological study. Over the next several days you record your last set of observations in the form of Chapters 1-8 of Book the Third. Once you've recorded the latest installment, read over it carefully.

(NOTE: the above chunk of chapters does NOT include the last chapter of the novel...)

Level Five required assignment - Concluding Your Sociological Study of Coketown:

Stage One - Exit Interviews: As your study comes to a close, you decide to conduct a series of interviews with the subjects you've been observing. More specifically, you decide to interview each subject about the following: what are causes of human misery and how can one confront such challenges? What is the secret to human happiness and is it possible for everyone to attain it?

Conduct at least 2 interviews with following options of people:

  • Thomas Gradgrind Sr.
  • Louisa "Bounderby"
  • Sissy Jupe
  • Stephen Blackpool (or Rachael)
  • Mr. Sleary

Interviews are to be recorded in the form of a scripted dialogue between you and the person in question. Each interview needs to be followed by a 4-6 sentence conclusion written by you, the interviewer. Each interview is worth 10XP (Making it a total of 20XP).

NOTE - Alternative collaboration option in place of the above assignment: Students may pair up with another collaborator, compose the scripts together, and film the 2 interviews by acting out the parts (costumes and props are encouraged) as actors. The assignment is still worth a total of 20XP.

Stage Two - Sharing Your Insights: Now that the study is concluded, you feel more confident about providing a tentative answer to the originary question that motivated your inquiry: What is the secret to human happiness? As you formulate your conclusive insights, you are reminded of the many characters from your study who never found happiness during your stay in Coketown. You decide to write to one of them, and in your letter you hope to convey some advice about why the person in question has failed to find happiness in his or her pursuit.

Write a letter of advice to one of the following characters:

  • James Harthouse
  • Tom Gradgrind Jr.
  • Josiah Bounderby
  • Mrs. Sparsit

The letter should be multiple paragraphs, and it is worth 10XP. (Students may write a 2nd letter for an additional 10XP if they desire to do so).

Stage Three - Preparing Research for Conference Publication: The year now is 1859, and you are already beginning to make arrangements for your eventual return to France. In fact, you've already registered for the national summit of the Académie des Sciences which will be taking place in January of 1860 in Paris, France. For the first time, you will be presenting your work to the largest gathering of the most esteemed scholars of your home country. It could be your chance to earn an invitation to join one of the most prestigious organizations of Western Europe, a dream you've entertained your entire career! You decide to make preparations for your upcoming presentation:

Make a PechaKucha presentation on one of the prompts below (a PechaKucha presentation is a "rapid fire" powerpoint presentation made up of 20 slides that advance at 20 secs. per slide. Go here to see example from an NAIS conference.):

1. Who is the "hero" in Dickens's Hard Times? What makes this person heroic? And what does it say about heroes in general in the modern age of realist fiction?

2. Select a charcater from the novel as well as one of the major themes. Using these two lenses, explain what Dickens thinks to be the secret to finding human happiness.

3. What is the common thing that could make schools, home life, and the work place better (according to Dickens)? What are the social (or political) obstacles that make it so hard to make improvements in areas like school, the home, or the workplace? (You can choose to focus on only one of the three suggested settings, namely school, home, and work...).

Students need to turn in the written script for the presentation in addition to the powerpoint. The presentation is worth 20XP.