Improving Society Through Individuals
Starting in the late seventeen hundreds and continuing into the nineteenth century, England underwent a period of industrialization and urbanization, referred to as the Industrial Revolution. During this time, life became more difficult for a large majority of the citizens and hardships began to pile one on top of another. In the book Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, the lives and relationships of a range of people from this time are illustrated in order to demonstrate the nature of this society. Dickens uses the fictitious characters in Hard Times as examples of the varying degrees of inequality and misfortune, as well as the personifications of different schools of thought during the nineteenth century in England. Dickens uses this novel as an opportunity to expose many injustices in British society with which he seems to disagree. He criticizes the social structure by manipulating the lives of the characters in a way that reveals their flaws as a class while also indirectly relating his opinions on certain aspects of society. First of all, he uses Mr. Gradgrind's model school as a way of mocking some elements of enlightened thought. He starts the book by describing Mr. Gradgrind as an "eminently practical father" who uses his own exceptional system of nothing but "Fact, fact, fact" to raise and educate the children of his school (Dickens, 16,20). The teacher's name itselfMr. McChoakumchildis a means to ridicule the strict focus on reason and logic as the solitary basis of thought and development. Initially, Mr. Gradgrind is very proud of the progress made by children such as Bitzer, Louisa, and Tom, and he is likewise dissatisfied with Sissy's performance. However, he is eventually humbled by the fact that his most prominent students essentially destroy him through their own faults. He is left to "mistrust [himself]" and the ideals which he so fervently advocated (Dickens, 221). Another example is his...
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