Utalitarian Principle in Charles Dickens Hard Times

Topics: Hard Times, Utilitarianism, Charles Dickens Pages: 8 (3080 words) Published: March 25, 2013
Utilitarianism is the assumption that human beings act in a way that highlights their own self interest. It is based on factuality and leaves little room for imagination. Utilitarianism dominated as the form of government in England's Victorian age of eighteenth century. Utilitarianism, as rightly claimed by Dickens, robbed the people of their individuality and joy; deprived the children of their special period of their lives, 'Childhood' and deprived women of their inherent right of equality. The theme of utilitarianism, along with industrialization and education is explored by Charles Dickens, in his novel Hard Times.. Hard Times written in those times intended to explore its negativisms. Utilitarianism as a government was propounded as a value of system which evaluated its productivity by its overall utility. It substantiated the idea of "highest level of happiness for the highest numbers of people". Since the overall happiness of the nation depended open the overall productivity, industrialism became the walk of everyday life. Moreover, since Utilitarianism assumes that what is good for majority is good for everyone, individual preferences are ignored. The majority answers are always right. Minorities are subjugated and oppressed, instead of being asked for their opinions. Their feelings are ignored and society becomes increasingly practical, and driven by economics. The theory fails to acknowledge any individual rights that could not be violated for the sake of the greater good.

Hard Times was in fact an attack on the Manchester School of economics, which supported laissez-faire and promoted a distorted view of Bentham’s ethics. The novel has been criticised for not offering specific remedies for the Condition-of-England problems it addresses. It is debatable whether solutions to social problems are to be sought in fiction, but nevertheless, Dickens’s novel anticipated the future debates concerning anti-pollution legislation, intelligent town-planning, health and safety measures in factories and a humane education system.

The school teachers are compared to a gun loaded to its muzzle by facts ready to be exploded to the children. The children in schools don't have names and are called by numbers. There is no room for imaginative answers. When the teacher asks to answer what 'horse' is, a student named Bitzer gives a factual answer, "quadruped" having this-many teeth etc, but by no means the 'qualities' of the horse is exemplified and considered. The influence of utilitarianism is shown particularly by two characters in the novel, Gradgrind and Bounderby. Both are money-oriented, have materialistic outlook and give importance to 'facts'.eople in insane productivity. Dickens provides three vivid examples of this utilitarian logic in Hard Times The first; Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, one of the main characters in the book, was the principal of a school in Coketown. He was a firm believer in utilitarianism and instilled this philosophy into the students at the school from a very young age, as well as his own children. Mr. Josiah Bounderby was also a practitioner of utilitarianism, but was more interested in the profit that stemmed from it. At the other end of the perspective, a group of circus members, who are the total opposite of utilitarians, are added by Dickens to provide a sharp contrast from the ideas of Mr. Bounderby and Mr. Gradgrind. Thomas Gradgrind Sr., a father of five children, has lived his life by the book and never strayed from his philosophy that life is nothing more than facts and statistics. . Thomas Gradgrind in particular always gives importance to facts and raises his children to be hard, machine-like and epitomes of facts and they lack any emotions. Even while justifying Louisa's marriage to 'old' Bounderby, he does so by some mathematical calculations and logic.. He has successfully incorporated this belief into the school system of Coketown, and has tried his best to do so with his...
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