This is based on a 1935 novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin, which was also made into a film in 1939. The book tells of an English mining town pre-WWI following families and their trials and triumphs, particularly a young man who is a miner and tries to change the conditions for which miners work, but in the end looses his battle for change in parliament and also his wife. He gained nothing and returned to be a miner.
Neil Peart (who wrote this) lost his wife to cancer. In the Vapor Trails tour book, he wrote: "This seemed to express a fitting view of an uncaring universe."
Suggestion credit: Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for above 2