Charles Dickens: Hard Times
Written in 1854, Charles Dickens’ “Hard Times” tells the story of manydifferent characters and their growth through troubles and time. Thebook does not give an accurate historical background of Dickens’ timebut rather, focuses on the utilitarian value system that was popularand attacks it with a satirical attitude. Even in book one alone,there are several different ‘evils’ represented through characters andevents.
One specific ‘evil’ Dickens attacks is that of the public schoolingsystem. Mr Gradgrind, the owner of a school in the book, is oftenheard telling people of how he wants facts taught to the pupils at hisschool; “nothing else will ever be of service to them” he comments.
The point that Dickens seems to be portraying in this book aboutschools is that the system seems to focus only on facts, nothing else,and this is not, despite the system’s views, the most important thingfor people. People need to think of things in a broader context, theway the character Sissy does in the book, with an open, free spritthan even Grandgrind finds he likes as Sissy grows older. However whenwe first meet Sissy and when we follow her progress through the firstbook, he throws her logical answers down, as they are not “factual”enough.
Another point of his time that Dickens portrays in a bad light is thatof the working environment for the “hands”. In the story, he describeshow these workers were packed into tightly fitted factories and madeto work for long hours with little pay or rewards. Bounderby even goesas far, or so it seems, as to view the “hands” are mere extras to hismachinery and certainly doesn’t view them as equal beings to himselfeven though, as he often comments, he used to be a young “Vagabond”living in extreme poverty when he was younger.
One thing highlighted through the contrasting lifestyle of the “Hands”and characters such as Gradgrind and Bounderby is that of class