Hard Times and Charles Dickens

Topics: Hard Times, Charles Dickens, Industrial Revolution Pages: 5 (1835 words) Published: March 13, 2005
The novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens is a fictitious glimpse into the lives of various classes of English people that live in a town named Coketown during the Industrial Revolution. The general culture of Coketown is one of utilitarianism. The school there is run by a man ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature . This man, known as Thomas Gradgrind, is responsible for the extermination of anything fanciful and integration of everything pertinent and factual into the young, pliable minds of Coketown's children. The older characters in the book, and especially Mr. Bounderby, are examples of how years of leading a utilitarian life can mold someone into an arrogantly bland and ignorant individual, which I think is one of Dickens main points in the book. There is no doubt that a lifetime of frugal and pragmatic living in a capitalist system can make you wealthy, but at what price does it come? I think that this question is the essence of this book. In regard to the matter of the seriousness, or realism, of the book, the basis of the previous question must be analyzed through the lenses of logic and reason to deduce the extent to which Hard Times may and may not be taken seriously.

In my study of validity relating to historical and sociological environments, I will analyze the situations and personalities portrayed in Hard Times. Why not start at the beginning? In the first few sentences of the book, Mr. Gradgrind makes it clear that "facts alone are wanted in life," and that everything else is to be "rooted out." The first scene described in the book is of Mr. Gradgrind harshly singling out the assumed newest and least experienced (in terms of the strict principles cherished by the people of Coketown) student among his class and ordering her to describe a horse. Although the girl, Sissy Jupe, has traveled with the circus all of her life, which can be assumed as an entity prone to the utilization of the power and grace of an equestrian compliment, she is tongue-tied when asked of the simple task of describing a horse, because she is very shy in the first place, but has no idea of what is expected of her by this authoritarian terror of a teacher. Following her bewilderment, the boy Bitzer is asked to comment and gives a textbook, fact heavy definition of a horse that pleases the instructor. This scene demonstrates the seriousness with which the whole utilitarian mindset is undertaken by the teachers in Coketown. The question to be asked is: Should teaching that adheres to the principles of utilitarianism in the strictest manner be taken seriously as something that was commonplace or even in existence at all during the time period of the Industrial Revolution. With the rise of capitalism in England, I think that it is not unreasonable to assume that the educational model presented in this book could be something that might have existed in some endowed schools fabricated by wealthy businessmen that had benefited greatly by living by the principles of supply and demand economics and wished for that doctrine to be spread throughout society for everyone's benefit. In this light, I would argue that the educational setting portrayed in this book could have been a reality in places where there were rich, eccentric businessmen. I do wonder, however, the likelihood of parents actually raising their children as strictly as the Gradgrinds did. I would think that to deprive your child of all things entertaining would be much too extreme for any parent to possibly consider as a doctrine for raising their children by.

The man known as Josiah Bounderby of Coketown is a central character within the book whose presence is as important as the notion of the Industrial Revolution itself. Mr. Bounderby represents the capitalist ideology of rags to riches that was surely prevalent during this period of capitalist exploitation. During the course of the novel, Mr. Bounderby is frequently saying things like: "I...
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