AP English Lit
In the novel, “Hard Times,” Charles Dickens uses Mr. Gradgrind, Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe to express his view on Utilitarianism. Utilitarians believe “our moral faculty, according to all those of its interpreters who are entitled to the name of thinkers, supplies us only with the general principles of moral judgments; it is a branch of our reason, not of our sensitive faculty; and must be looked to for the abstract doctrines of morality, not for perception of it in the concrete.” (Mill) They believed that things should only be done if they are for the good of the majority. Dickens did not agree with utilitarian beliefs.
Mr. Thomas Gradgrind is used by Dickens to represent a utilitarian leader. Dickens reveals Gradgrind at the beginning of the novel as being “inflexible, dry and dictatorial.” (Dickens, 11) He uses repetitive passive voice in describing Gradgrind to emphasize Gradgrind’s unemotional, robotic and uncaring nature. The way Dickens describes Gradgrind relates to the novel as a whole because he is the representation of utilitarianism. “Utilitarianism requires [one] to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator” (Mill) which is exactly what Gradgrind is. He only believes in fact and not in fanciful imaginations. Gradgrind also stresses the importance of education “that education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness and the good of the whole; especially between his own happiness and the practice of such modes of conduct, negative and positive, as regard for the universal happiness prescribes; so that not only he may be unable to conceive the possibility of happiness to himself, consistently with conduct opposed to the general good, but also that a direct impulse to promote the general good may be in every...