In the book Hard Times, Dickens portrays his philosophical values, namely the opposition between Fact and Fancy and his support for the latter and the need for religious values in humanity, itself attached to the importance of femininity. He also writes in parallel to the literary context of the times, for example criticising capitalism and portraying the negative effects of industrialisation. The novel is one of many critiques written at the time and suggests numerous social developments and ideas.
In effect, Hard Times is one of Dickens’ strong social critiques. It is almost a satire in itself because of the use of humour and sentimental melodrama. The use of humour is apparent when Dickens describes Mr Bounderby: “A man made out of a coarse material, which seemed to have stretched to make so much of him”. He does this to show his opinion on the rising, greedy middle class, Mr. Bounderby is very large, which indicates greed, and very loud, which Dickens then mocks strongly. He also satirises Mrs. Sparsit with her description: “she was now, in her elderly days, with the Coriolanian style of nose and the dense black eyebrows” because she represents the snobbish, pretentious rich higher class who look down on everyone.
The sentimental melodrama is portrayed through Harthouse’s plight after Louisa leaves him: “He was positively agitated. He several times spoke with an emphasis, similar to the vulgar manner.” This man, to whom the only pleasure in life is overcoming a new challenge, seems to be completely disorientated by the fact that he did not get his own way with Louisa. Dickens is criticising here the opportunistic and selfish values of the higher class using the melodramatic cover of “lost love” which Harthouse is now feeling for the first time.
Dickens criticises all social classes very strongly through satire except for the working class, which the author holds in higher esteem, he believes in them.
In effect, the literary context at the time often portrayed the dangers of capitalism (based on the writings of Karl Marx). Dickens also writes about this, he shows that the rich are lower, morally speaking, than the poor.
He criticises the middle and upper class: Mr. Bounderby is the principal character for this. He is portrayed as a very fat man “A big, loud man” which shows how prosperous and well-fed he is. In opposition, Stephen Blackpool, a Hand, is described as “A rather stooping man, with a knitted brow, a pondering expression of face, and a hard-looking head sufficiently capacious, on which his iron-grey hair lay long and thin”. He is the opposite of Bounderby, thin, quiet and, of course, poor.
Bounderby is shown to be stupid and is mocked when Mrs. Sparsit talks to him: “’Rather young for that, is he not Sir?’ Mrs. Sparsit’s ‘Sir’ in addressing Mr. Bounderby, was a word of ceremony, rather exacting consideration for herself in the use, than honouring him.” Mr. Bounderby does not notice the fact that Mrs. Sparsit’s overuse of “Sir” is actually a form of mocking him and gratifying herself which is humorous to the reader but is also an authorial mocking of Mr. Bounderby. Yet again, this is in contrast to the working class. Blackpool seems to be intelligent: “Old Stephen might have passed for a particularly intelligent man in his condition”, this in a man with no education and who is at the bottom of the social scale. Dickens is yet again emphasising the contrast between the two classes.
Dickens also criticises Mrs. Sparsit, she represents the pretentious, falsely superior aristocracy. Even though she has fallen out of “power” she still thinks herself better than anybody else, including those richer that herself, such a Mr. Bounderby: “’It is true, Sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, with an affectation of humility the very opposite of his, and therefore in no danger of jostling it”. She is at the pinnacle of selfishness, she thinks of none but herself. Dickens also wants to contrast this with the...
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