10 March 2014
Hard Times Essay
The novel Hard Times, by Charles Dickens was written in 1854 based on the idea that logic and fact helped advance society more than fancy and imagination did. Dickens was concerned with the gloomy lives and social problems of mid-nineteenth-century England's working class and Hard Times was his way of expressing his thoughts. He addresses these problems through three divided sections of the novel where logic, reason, fancy and imagination are scrutinized through characters and events. His thoughts are shown through characters and also in his description of the setting of the novel. Each title's chapter carries a central message of imagination versus fact and theme that relates back to the titles "Sowing," "Reaping," and "Garnering," through the plot and character growth that portray Dickens' outlook on nineteenth century England.
The first section of the book is titled "Sowing," because readers begin to learn who the main characters are, what they all bring to the story and if their mentality leans toward fact or fancy. Each character begins to plant or "sow" their identities for the novel and this gives readers the main structure of the first book. From the very beginning Mr. Gradgrind establishes that he is a man devoted to facts, self-interest and not much else, although he is also eventually conveyed as a loving father. "Now, what 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" (Dickens). Dickens used these characters and opened the book this way to show the mentality of most people in England. Mr. Gradgrind may be compared to Sissy Jupe, whose mentality is for her love of imagination, expression and not solely on facts. Dickens conveys his message of rationality and logic through these characters and their actions representing his view of the nineteenth century working class and the poor. He "sows" his thoughts of England's working class of the nineteenth century through each of these characters.
Over the course of the next book titled "Reaping," readers begin to notice how the characters "reap" what was initially sowed in the first book. It begins by describing the town of Coketown, "Coketown lay shrouded in a haze of its own, which appeared impervious to the sun’s rays. You only knew the town was there because you knew there could have been no such sulky blotch upon the prospect without a town" (Dickens). The town was literally dark from all the smoke and clouds, but it was a representation of the actual town and it's people. The town was as dark and formless as it looked from the outside. Throughout the rest of the second book, each of the characters sowed or planted seeds of logic, rationality, dishonesty and unkindness. So because of this they reaped unhappiness, ostracism, isolation and destruction within this chapter. They learn of their mistakes after the consequences of their actions in the first book. Dickens' message about rationality is shown in this section through the characters reaping a harvest of their own making. Each of the characters have to deal with the consequences of their lives from the first chapter.
In the third book, the characters pick up what is left of their lives hence the title "Garnering." When finally realizing the failure of his ways through thinking, Mr. Gradgrind, tries to help his children, acts as a concerned father would, gives up his devotion to facts and helps the poor. While this is occurring, readers see Mr. Bounderby being ostracized because he turns out to be a phony all along who lied about being a self-made man and reveals Mrs. Pegler as a loving mother. Mrs. Sparsit is fired by Mr. Bounderby and send her to her family members and he ends up dying years later. Each character in this novel sow, reap and garner what is left of themselves bringing an ending to the three parts of their lives. Tom dies without sseeing his family again, but learns the failure in his ways prior. Sissy ends up marrying and having a loving family of her own while Louisa never has a family or gets married again. Although this happens, Louisa is still loved by Sissy's family and eventually learns love and sympathy for other people. They all have to deal with the results of their choices in life have to deal with terrible life changes and endings giving the title "Garnering," its meaning. "Dear reader! It rests with you and me, whether, in our two fields of action, similar things shall be or not. Let them be! We shall sit with lighter bosoms on the hearth, to see the ashes of our fires turn grey and cold" (Dickens). Dickens' idea of rationality is portrayed through the changes and results of each characters actions. Although some end up in a worse condition, they represent the rise and fall of nineteenth century England's working class and Dickens represents them through the struggles and victories of them.
Through the divided sections of Hard Times we learn about characters representing Dickens' view of England's working class. Fancy, fact, rationality and imagination are all demonstrated through the events, characters, theme and setting Dickens' exposes over the entire novel. Hard Times is has been one of those novels that did not hold back from exaggeration to get a message across or did not settle in any way. Some of the characters ended life in miserable ways and other ended with better life changes because of the choices they made. Each title is a representation of the story it tells to the reader and carries a central message of imagination versus fact that relates back to the titles "Sowing," "Reaping," and "Garnering," because each character had to sow, reap and garner what was left of themselves symbolizing Dickens' outlook on nineteenth century England and representing all humans in some way.