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Reading Fiction: Coketown

In this worksheet, students read an extract from 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens and understand how the text relates to its context.

'Reading Fiction: Coketown' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:  Reading

Curriculum subtopic:  Understand Meaning

Difficulty level:  

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Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Read this description of "Coketown" from the book Hard Times by Charles Dickens:

 

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.

 

 

Next, we will go through some questions on the text.

Coketown was invented by Dickens, the writer, but he based it on the northern mill towns such as Preston, Manchester and Bradford, as they were in Victorian times. Which colours does Dickens use to describe the town? Tick three boxes.

Blue

Red

Black

Green

Purple

What do the colours used tell us about the town they describe?

It must be night-time because it is very dark.

The colours describe a winter scene.

It is unnatural, things are not the colour they should be.

Dickens describes the sounds of the machines in the buildings: ____________ and a __________ all day long. This adds to a gloomy and threatening atmosphere, where the work may well be dangerous and dominate the people's lives.

 

Write the missing words in the text box below:

The writer uses two images of animals in his description:

"interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled."

...and...

"the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness."

 

Which of the following points would be the best one to make about these quotations?

Nature is not allowed to do what it should, everything is confined by the work of the town.

The work is boring and repetitive.

Working hard will drive you mad.

Read this quotation from the extract:

"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,"

 

Which of the following statements are NOT true?Tick three boxes.

Coketown is a creative place.

Coketown is grim.

Coketown is a vibrant town.

Coketown has a diverse population.

Coketown is unappealing.

Read this extract from the text:

(the people) 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.

 

Which word has this student left out?

The repetition of the word _______ throughout the text suggests that the lives of the inhabitants of Coketown are largely meaningless and that they have no hope for the future.

What point do you think Dickens is making about how society was organised in Victorian times, through his description in this extract?

That people were lucky to have a job in a factory.

That people should move into towns to look for work.

That life was hard for poor people and they had a poor quality of life.

Read this student's work and write the missing word in the text box beneath:

 

It was important for Dickens to describe what life was like in the Northern mill towns. Many of his readers would be part of the middle class, which was growing in V__________ England. However, they would not have any contact with really poor people as they lived very separate lives. 

Read this point and explanation. Which of the following quotations would be the best one to use?

 

I think that Charles Dickens did a lot for the poor people in Victorian England. By describing what life was like, day-in, day-out, he makes the reader have sympathy towards poor people: _________________________________________________________________ The writer is encouraging us to feel trapped by the life which is described, here.  

 

People equally like one another.

Every day was the same as yesterday, and tomorrow.

Many small streets.

Choose which of the experiences given below belong to the Victorian middle class, and which are the experience of the Victorian poor.

 Middle class Poor people
greater range of food
chance of work in factories
chance to be a manager in the factories
leisure time to read books
dirty and physical work
more luxury items to buy
little or no choice about where you lived
forced to work long hours for basic pay
  • Question 1

Coketown was invented by Dickens, the writer, but he based it on the northern mill towns such as Preston, Manchester and Bradford, as they were in Victorian times. Which colours does Dickens use to describe the town? Tick three boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
Red
Black
Purple
EDDIE SAYS
The colours used to describe the town are red, black and purple. Black emphasises the amount of smoke and dirt that is present in the town, and it coats all of the buildings in the town.
  • Question 2

What do the colours used tell us about the town they describe?

CORRECT ANSWER
It is unnatural, things are not the colour they should be.
EDDIE SAYS
The bricks should be red, but are black from smoke, the canal should not be black and the river should not be purple; it is a very unnatural scene.
  • Question 3

Dickens describes the sounds of the machines in the buildings: ____________ and a __________ all day long. This adds to a gloomy and threatening atmosphere, where the work may well be dangerous and dominate the people's lives.

 

Write the missing words in the text box below:

CORRECT ANSWER
rattling trembling
rattling and trembling
rattling and a trembling
EDDIE SAYS
The actions of 'rattling' and 'trembling' portray an image of the machines struggling as they work. This adds danger to the scene as the reader is able to imagine that the machines could break at any moment.
  • Question 4

The writer uses two images of animals in his description:

"interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled."

...and...

"the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness."

 

Which of the following points would be the best one to make about these quotations?

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature is not allowed to do what it should, everything is confined by the work of the town.
EDDIE SAYS
The first answer links both of the quotations together (as they are both about nature) and explains the point which Dickens is making about the unnatural way of life in Coketown.
  • Question 5

Read this quotation from the extract:

"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,"

 

Which of the following statements are NOT true?Tick three boxes.

CORRECT ANSWER
Coketown is a creative place.
Coketown is a vibrant town.
Coketown has a diverse population.
EDDIE SAYS
The description Dickens gives is of a grim and unattractive place, where life is monotonous and hard.
  • Question 6

Read this extract from the text:

(the people) 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.

 

Which word has this student left out?

The repetition of the word _______ throughout the text suggests that the lives of the inhabitants of Coketown are largely meaningless and that they have no hope for the future.

CORRECT ANSWER
same
EDDIE SAYS
The repetition of the word 'same' emphasies that everyone in the town is the same; nobody stands out. By repeating the word several times, Dickens also highlights the monotony of life in the town.
  • Question 7

What point do you think Dickens is making about how society was organised in Victorian times, through his description in this extract?

CORRECT ANSWER
That life was hard for poor people and they had a poor quality of life.
EDDIE SAYS
Dickens is emphasising the hardship that poor people suffered in Victorian times. He highlights the vast difference in the quality of life between rich people and poor people.
  • Question 8

Read this student's work and write the missing word in the text box beneath:

 

It was important for Dickens to describe what life was like in the Northern mill towns. Many of his readers would be part of the middle class, which was growing in V__________ England. However, they would not have any contact with really poor people as they lived very separate lives. 

CORRECT ANSWER
Victorian
EDDIE SAYS
The missing word is 'Victorian', as Dickens' novel is based in Victorian England and, in the novel, he emphasises the difference between poor people and rich people at this time.
  • Question 9

Read this point and explanation. Which of the following quotations would be the best one to use?

 

I think that Charles Dickens did a lot for the poor people in Victorian England. By describing what life was like, day-in, day-out, he makes the reader have sympathy towards poor people: _________________________________________________________________ The writer is encouraging us to feel trapped by the life which is described, here.  

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Every day was the same as yesterday, and tomorrow.
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Every day was the same as yesterday, and tomorrow." emphasises the monotony of life in Coketown, and causes the reader to feel trapped by the claustrophobic nature of this lifestyle.
  • Question 10

Choose which of the experiences given below belong to the Victorian middle class, and which are the experience of the Victorian poor.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Middle class Poor people
greater range of food
chance of work in factories
chance to be a manager in the factories
leisure time to read books
dirty and physical work
more luxury items to buy
little or no choice about where you lived
forced to work long hours for basic pay
---- OR ----

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