“The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.”

This quotation, which appears in Book One, Chapter 1, emphasizes the wide-reaching impact that Coketown’s industrialism has on its culture. Not only does the town’s mechanization influence the type of education that its children receive, but it determines how they receive it as well. Mr. Gradgrind and the teachers of his school treat their students like objects to fill with knowledge rather than unique and impressionable human beings, a perspective which inevitably stunts their social and emotional growth. 

“There had been so little communication between these two—both because life at Stone Lodge went monotonously round like a piece of machinery which discouraged human interference, and because of the prohibition relative to Sissy’s past career—that they were still almost strangers.”  

Despite moving into Stone Lodge and living among the Gradgrind family, Sissy struggles to genuinely understand Louisa given the cold and self-interested nature of their household. In this quotation, which appears in Book One, Chapter 9, Dickens compares the family’s dynamics to a machine in order to emphasize how their commitment to a fact-based way of life inadvertently dehumanizes them. The harsh and dismissive attitude that the Gradgrinds have toward Sissy, who desperately wants to feel at home among them, is one of the many harmful side effects of their worldview.

“Most o’ aw, rating ’em as so much Power, and reg’latin ’em as if they was figures in a soom, or machines: wi’out loves and likens, wi’out memories and inclinations, wi’out souls to weary and souls to hope—when aw goes quiet, draggin on wi’ ’em as if they’d nowt o’ th’ kind, and when aw goes onquiet, reproachin ’em for their want o’ sitch humanly feelins in their dealins wi’ yo—this will never do ’t, sir, till God’s work is onmade.”

In Book Two, Chapter 5, Mr. Bounderby asks Stephen how he can resolve the complaints of the unionizing workers, and this quotation serves as the final point of Stephen’s honest, albeit timid, response. He argues that a majority of the workers’ dissatisfaction comes from the fact that Mr. Bounderby does not treat them like human beings. Mr. Bounderby views his employees as just another part of the factory’s machine, a perspective which reduces individuals to the status of an insignificant, replaceable part of a whole.