Hard Times Essay

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Hard Times Coursework

Hard times was written in 1854 by Charles Dickens. Dickens was a famous Victorian novelist who wrote about the civilization that surrounded him. He was knowledgeable and middle-class but had some sympathy with the way poor people were treated. He was vital of utilitarianism and felt that those in power showed little understanding of the poor. His sympathy with the poor stemmed from his upbringing and his father's failure to stay out of debt. Hard Times is Dickens' shortest novel and is considered by many to be a satire. The story revolves around the stubborn disciplinarian Mr Thomas Gradgrind. Through the writing of this character, Dickens examines the utilitarian philosophy of the time and exposes some of the hypocrisy of those in positions of power.

Satire is a literary technique whereby the flaws of an individual are exposed through the use of ridicule, irony and sarcasm. Dickens does this by using plenty of exaggeration, repetition, reverse personification, irony and many other techniques. In this novel Dickens conveys his view on the utilitarian system by revealing every aspect of the system to be flawed. This results to an absolute mockery of the system which is a satire of utilitarianism.

The central theme of ‘Hard Times is an attack on Utilitarianism. ‘Fact’ is at the centre of utilitarian, education system and Dickens makes this clear by using repetition. It is clear that for a utilitarian, ‘Facts alone are wanted in life’ and that there is no room for imagination or creativity. Even the way Gradgrind speaks is very formal and factual. Dickens uses very, short and sharp sentences to highlight the calculated way of speaking “Now, what I want… service to them”. There is some irony used in the first paragraph. “This is the principle on which I bring up my own children”. Dickens uses this to show that even his children were brought up by this utilitarian regime. The irony of this statement is that both Gradgrind’s children, who were raised under strict utilitarian regime, end up unhappy in later life. Tom robs a bank and Louisa never re-marries after her first unhappy marriage. Sissy Jupe however, who is adopted into the Gradgrind’s family, but never embraces utilitarianism, ends up with a happy and loving family at the end of the novel.

Dickens introduces his anger by using the repetition of the words ‘facts’. “Now, what I want is Facts…Stick to Facts, Sir!” In this paragraph, he uses the word Facts five times and with a capital ‘F’. The use of the repetition is to emphasize the central theme (attack on utilitarianism). The use of the capital ‘F’ helps to emphasize the importance of the word as it is their doctrine. Dickens introduces Gradgrind as a central figure that is embodiment of utilitarianism. Dickens uses some imagery and diction of Gradgrind to ridicule both the character and the beliefs he represents. The first way Dickens does this is by using repetition to physically describe Gradgrind. Dickens refers to Gradgrind as square, “square forefinger…square coat, square legs, square shoulders”. Dickens uses repetition of the word ‘square’ as a metaphor to depict Gradgrind as a strict and rigid person. Also, ‘Square’ refers Gradgrind as a truthful character. The result of using the two poetic devices combined mutually helps Dickens create a mocking image of Gradgrind. Dickens nearly makes him emerge as a fact.

Furthermore, Dickens ridicules Gradgrind through his very name. The first part of Gradgrinds name sounds very harsh, a sound that a wild animal will make while searching for its prey. ‘Gr’. And the last part of his name ‘grind’ makes one think of a factory. A factory is filled with machinery which work diligently but are associated with cold, gloomy, grimy, polluted, and revolting images. The same way a factory grinds metals, Gradgrind is grinding every single one of his worthless facts into these children. Also the name Gradgrind metaphorically means someone who is...
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