quando il setting diventa un personaggio – le città di Charles Dickens

London and the industrial towns in Charles Dickens’s novels become characters with their own personality. 

He wrote at a time of intense change in London and his descriptions of nineteenth century London permit the readers to experience the sights, sounds, and smells (= odori)  of the old city.

Victorian London was the largest, most spectacular city in the world. While Britain was experiencing the Industrial Revolution, its capital was both collecting the benefits and suffering the consequences. In 1800 the population of London was around a million souls (= anime)  and increased to 4.5 million by 1880. Perhaps the biggest impact on the growth of London was the coming of the railroad (= ferrovia)  in the 1830s  accelerated the expansion of the city.

The price of this explosive growth (= crescita) and domination of world trade (= mercato mondiale) was great squalor and filth (= sporco).

The houses of the upper and middle class were built near areas of unbelievable (= incredibile) poverty and rich and poor lived together in the crowded (= affollate) city streets. The chimney pots were polluting (= inquinando) with coal (= carbone) smoke and in many parts of the city raw dirt flowed into the Thames. Pick-pockets (= borsaioli) , prostitutes, drunks, beggars (= mandicanti), and vagabonds of every description add to the colorful multitude.

As to the sanitary conditions, personal cleanliness (= pulizia) was not a big priority. Until the second half of the 19th century London residents were still drinking water from the Thames. Several outbreaks (= focolai) of Cholera in the mid 19th century, along with The Great Stink (= grande fetore) of 1858, when the disgusting odor of the Thames caused Parliament to stop, brought a cry for action. The link between drinking water and the incidence of disease (= malattia) slowly oppressed the Victorians.

The Metropolitan Police, London’s first police force, was created by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel (hence – da qui- the name Peelers and, eventually, Bobbies) in 1829 with headquarters in what would become known as Scotland Yard. The old London watch (= guardia) system, in effect since Elizabethan times, was then abolished. 

In 1834 the Parliament enacted (= rese attulabile) the New Poor Law to partly solve these problems. It required parishes (= parrochhie) to group together and create regional workhouses where assistance could be applied for (= richiesta) . The workhouses were little more than  prisons for the poor. Civil liberties were denied (= nagate) , families were separated, and human dignity was destroyed.

In Oliver Twist the description of the Slums in London show this situations. Dickens uses superlative relatives and a large quantity of adjective to convey the idea of poverty, dirt and physical decay which poor people experienced.
In Hard Times, Dicken describes the industrial town using an unusual comparison, the jungle. The town of blackened red bricks (= mattoni) , polluted and full of smoke is Coketown. And Coketown has chimneys (= ciminiere) similar to the sad head of an elephant going up and down; their smokes are serpents; the river has the colours of a savage’s face….the influence of the new settlements, of the empire that was taking shape influenced also the imagination of a social and almost realistic writer like Dickens.