Identify Different Characterisations and Comparisons That Dickens Uses in the Novel “Hard Times” to Show Aspects of a Victorian Society During the Industrial Revolution?

Topics: Hard Times, Victorian era, Charles Dickens Pages: 5 (1993 words) Published: April 14, 2012
Identify different Characterisations and Comparisons that Dickens uses in the novel “Hard Times” to show aspects of a Victorian Society during the Industrial Revolution? The novel “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens is about the contrast of a harsh Victorian education and Victorian ideals imposed by an authoritarian, ridged society compared to the idealistic, romantic and emotional world. As an industrial novel,, it does not hold up as well as other novels, by other authors, because it does not have a deep focus on the working class and industrial relations. It does touch on the subject of union movements when looking at the character of Stephen Blackpool, but again, it does not go into depth about the workers unions of the time. Dickens may have got his inspiration for this novel from his early life, working in a boot factory and being forced to live in prison when his Father became bankrupt. One definite inspiration for Dickens was when he visited Lancashire as a reporter during the workers strikes. I believe this novel to be more of a statement about how characters are affected by society in the 1840’s, than an industrial novel. Thomas Gradgrind is a utilitarian who is the founder of the educational system in Coketown. "Eminently practical" is Gradgrind's recurring description throughout the novel, and practicality is something he fervently aspires to. He represents the inflexibility of Fact, statistics and other materialistic pursuits. His name symbolises the type of person he is, an unbending type of person who lives on the philosophy of hard facts. He is a "square" person and this can be seen not only through Dickens’ description of his personality but also through the description of his physical appearance, "square shoulders". He is introduced as saying, “Now, all I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!” His ideals about education are also reflected in his parenting of Louisa and Tom, for example when he finds his children at the circus he states to them, “You! Thomas and you, to whom the circles of the sciences is open; Thomas and you, who may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas and you, who have been trained to mathematical exactness; … In this degraded position! I am amazed.” This quote shows how Gradgrind believes that education is the be all and end all of life and social status. It also focuses on one of the novel’s themes of facts versus fancy. Imagination and fancy were viewed as worrying things which should not be present in children, “… dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within…” It is at the end of Book Two: The Reaping when Louisa understands the meaning of love, fancy, everything her life had lacked. I believe his character is representative of a strict view of children being “… 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 was a very accurate idea of what was thought of children during this period of time and how schools were organised on the same lines as factories. In Victorian schools, class sizes were full with children who were just referred to as numbers, as we see when Gradgrind calls Sissy Jupe child number twenty. The contrasting themes of this novel are Fact versus Fancy. These themes are developed early on, the stronghold of Fact being the eminently practical Mr. Gradgrind, and his model school, which teaches nothing but Facts. Any imaginative or aesthetic subjects are removed from the curriculum, but analysis, deduction and mathematics are emphasised. Equally, Fancy is the opposite of Fact,...
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