Hard Times

Hard Times From the Classic of World Literature

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Charles Dickens novel “Hard Times” Dickens portrays the similarities and different agencies between the three characters Thomas Gradgrind, Sissy Jupe, and Rachel. Dickens evaluates these characters by the different roles they play in his novel. Thomas Gradgrind is successful due to his strong intuition, while Sissy Jupe and Rachel measure their success through selflessness.liThomas Gradgrind one of the most successful people through his intuition and imagination. He becomes very devoted to teach the wealthy students and middle class students. Gradgrind understands that his arrangement of instruction may not be impeccable but with his instinct he is affirmed by when he discovers that Tom has looted Bounderby’s bank. Looked with these disappointments of his framework, Gradgrind concedes, ‘The ground on which I stand has stopped to be strong under my feet”. His agency throughout the novel shows by him being someone who strongly accepts logical and legitimate thoughts and does not support the strange reasoning and thinking. His men and women’ issues made him feel loved and distress, which turns Gradgrind into a more humbler man, eventually making him out to be a strong successful wealthy man. In the 19th century Britain’s overeager feelings of industrialization compromises to transform individuals into machines by ruining the advancement of their feelings and creative energies. This proposal approaches to a great extent through the activities of Gradgrind and his partner, Bounderby, as the previous teaches the youth of his family and his school in the methods for certainty, the last treats the laborers in his manufacturing factory as articles that are effectively misused for his own self-interest.li Sissy Jupe comes from a lower class family, where her father abandoned her and she is also is the daughter of family that were circus performers. She relates to Gradgrind because of her imagination and her creativity, but also has conflicts with his rationality.

Despite being abandoned by her father and being pressured to become familiar with the Gradgrind rationality after having to move in with them to further her education. Sissy becomes the primary power for good in this novel. She is very caring, mindful, and adoring..she is constantly being wholehearted and having positive power with her strong imagination and creativity. Women from the lower class in the 19th century were in charge of supporting their families minds, in charge of ensuring their families were pleasant. Sissy relates to the women in the 19th century because she makes the ideal woman because of her characteristics that, would help a woman survive during the time period.liRachel was a factory worker that fell in the lower class category, who wasn’t very educated nor wealthy like Sissy and Gradgrind. Besides not having very much money and being less educated she was very kind, patient, and also selflessness. Which shows her character as a person and how it presented her agency, which was being able to continue to fight through battles though she couldn’t win but did anything to achieve what she wanted. She worked like a man weeks after weeks at a factory although women weren’t allowed to work in factories, but Rachel did anything she could to become successful. Women in Victorian England in the 19th century had no choice to do help support themselves and families.

Virginia Woolf in “professions for women” states “It is true I am a woman, it is true I am employed, but what professional experiences have I had? It is difficult”. It’s very difficult for women to get into the workforce especially a factory, but Rachel sets the bar high by leading by example as being a woman in Hard Times to be stable or wealthy, go against all the odds even going above men, to be successful in life. liGradgrind, Sissy and Rachel in Hard Times by Charles Dickens relates in so many ways because of their passion for success and love they have in their hearts. They also differentiate between each other because they all as individuals have their way of becoming their own person through their powers they have in life.

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Sociological Philosophies in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times is a work of Victorian Literature, written by Charles Dickens in 1854. The book analyses the English society at the time, and all of its struggles and failures. The book openly speaks about the industrialization turning people into robots who don’t have the ability to feel compassion towards other human beings, it tells us about borderline over-exaggerated rationality and similar problems.

The setting of the story is set in Coketown, an imaginary industrial Victorian town, somewhat similar to Manchester in certain points, but nevertheless, non-existent. Which is peculiar, since it’s Dickens’ first novel not set in London. The novel is written as a way to target utilitarianism, the school of thought which puts emphasis utility, rules and facts. Dickens made fun of utilitarians and called them “averages”. Thanks to them and their influence on education, the children of that time grew up without having any imagination at all. The perfect example of that in the novel is Thomans Gradgrind, who is a politician, an educator and an incurable rationalist and even has a school for children who are not allowed to be creative or imaginative. Least to say that he has two children and both of them are stuck in that school. Louisa and Tom – Louisa is a total mess, confusion rules her thought process and Tom, is a complete hedonist – the “positive bits” of growing up without being able to express your creativity and imagination are clearly visible here.

Other than these guys, there is also Gradgrind’s friend Bounderby, who is a factory owner and a banker as well – a self made man, is what he likes to call himself. He is a tad “obnoxious” which is restated again after Louisa finds out she has to marry the guy. She is completely repelled by him. In Bounderby’s factory, there is a certain guy called Stephen, who is the incorporation of decency. That guy, is of bad luck. He’s married to a drunk which he later tries to divorce, but is unable since the Victorian system doesn’t allow poor people to get a divorce, accused of robbing a bank (which he of course didn’t) and thus fired from his job and rejected by his co-workers after doing the noble deed of refusing to help either to make an even greater gap between the mill-owners and workers. There’s also James Harthouse, a wannabe politician, who likes to bolster about how he’s good looking, well educated and rich. He falls for Louisa and at a point even declares his love for her. She then runs to her father, even more confused than before and finally, “Mister rational” himself sees for the first time that pure unshakeable rationalism won’t get him out of this one and that everything he thought so far was right, was not. He also finds out his son is a criminal, a bank robber to be more precise, and tries to help him escape Coketown before he gets busted. Their plan gets thwarted by Bitzer who is of Gradgrinds school and has thus far only learned to look at his own self interest, meaning, catch the thief and collect a reward. Tom still manages to get away but that was the last straw as far as Gradgrinds school is concerned. I think even a complete ignorant self-centered rationalist should be aware of the faults of that way of thinking after everything that happened.

Like before mentioned this novel is meant as a way to target the faults of the utilitarian school of thought and it did, through Bitzer, through Tom and Louisa and last but not least through Gradgrind who became aware of his mistakes after all the trouble he went through with his completely ignorant and emotionless children. It also targets the law of the Victorian society, to be more specific, the law that is made for poor people, like, for example the ridiculous fact that they can not divorce their abusive and alcoholic partners.

To put it into more simple words, the novel is supposed to analyse the faults of the English society at that time and exaggerate them up to the point where everyone can understand what is wrong in hopes of correcting the whole thing.

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The Gradgrinds’ Wisdom of the Head and Heart in Hard Times by Charles Dickens

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

A Wisdom of the Head and Heart

Throughout life we face constant inner struggles between the informing oppositions within ourselves and the judgments we make based on these factors. One of the greatest conflicts we are faced with, however, lies in the disparity between nurturing of the head and nurturing of the heart. Oftentimes when people exercise knowledge purely of the head or heart they deprive themselves of reaching their full potential while starving the unnourished aspects of themselves. Education of the heart is often ignored in favor of a more linear education, as is the case of the Gradgrinds in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. Within the novel Dickens explores two extremes in the realm of fact and fancy through the strictly practical education of Mr. Gradgrind and the loving circus philosophy of Mr. Sleary. These differing ideologies are explored through the progression of Gradgrind and Sleary’s pupils: Bitzer and Louisa’s rigid, factual education renders them emotionless while Sissy’s fanciful upbringing makes it impossible for her to comprehend practical knowledge. While both of these extreme philosophies are presented in Hard Times, the character’s troubles illustrate that only a true balance of fact and fancy can lead to a complete and fulfilled life, which is ultimately demonstrated by Jane Gradgrind.

In the beginning of Hard Times Mr. Gradgrind is the greatest proponent of a factual education, but through awakened vision he learns to see the flaws in his system and understands the need for a balance between fact and fancy. Before this epiphany Mr. Gradgrind stresses the importance of structured learning, stating, “You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Fact: nothing else will ever be of any service to them” (9). His eyes are further described as taking shelter in “two dark caves”, relating his blindness to anything nonlinear (9). Gradgrind translates this blindness from the classroom to the education of his own children in Stone Lodge, “his matter-of-fact home”, and does his best to trample out any sort of imagination or whimsy that might reside there (17). He is so confident in his system that he fails to notice his daughter Louisa’s unhappiness, and when she detachedly accepts a loveless marriage proposal Gradgrind simply praises her practical nature and celebrates his success in rendering Louisa an unfeeling fact-machine. Gradgrind’s illusion is shattered when Louisa finally confronts him with the misery of her life, saying, “How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death?” (218). This confrontation awakens Gradgrind’s vision and allows him to recognize and accept the other facets he has neglected in himself and in his children. With this new knowledge aroused in his heart he makes “his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope, and Charity” (298). The wisdom he gains grants him the ability to change his ways and perceive the necessity of a harmony between fact and fancy.

While Mr. Gradgrind has a complete change of heart, Louisa Gradgrind is so emotionally deficient due to her fact-based upbringing that she is unable to decipher her own feelings or effectively express love. She recognizes that there may be something outside the realm of fact as she often wonders at the fire and even dares to peep at the whimsical circus performers. Louisa is even curious about Sissy, asking the circus girl questions “with a strong, wild, wandering interest” (64). However, upon hearing Bounderby’s marriage proposal, any bit of wonder Louisa might have had seems to die as she dispassionately accepts while quietly spilling out her woes: “What do I know, Father… of tastes and fancies; of aspirations and affections; of all that part of my nature in which such light things might have been nourished?” (106). Spiteful of the meaninglessness of her life and of Sissy’s pity for her, from that moment Louisa becomes “impassive, proud, and cold” and is altogether distant and unforgiving to Sissy, representing Louisa’s forfeit of any small bit of sentiment in her life (107). As she continues to live on in such an unfeeling manner, Louisa is entirely incapable of interpreting her feelings for Harthouse or recognizing his evil intentions, leading to her fall and confrontation with her own bitter unhappiness. Although she achieves a sense of clarity and is now open to Sissy’s love, Louisa is never able to reconstruct herself after so many years of emotional repression. Try as she might to express love and sentiment in the future, she still views it as “a duty to be done”, something that does not come naturally or easily to her (300). Though Louisa will never be as spirited and affectionate as Sissy, she still accepts the importance of nonlinear lives, something Bitzer fails to ever grasp.

As Gradgrind’s star student, Bitzer is a cold, calculating machine susceptible to nothing but fact. From a young age Bitzer thinks only in absolutes, callously defining a horse as “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth…” (12). Dickens also repeatedly describes Bitzer as being extremely pale, emphasizing his lackluster personality and almost inhuman quality. Bitzer, lacking any “affections or passions”, fails to see anything outside of his own linear perspective and wonders why anyone should want a wife, children, or recreational activities (122). He is so blinded by facts that he is literally unable to acknowledge any way of living apart from his own deprived existence. Gradgrind’s failed method of teaching returns to haunt him when Bitzer is the only thing standing in the way of Tom escaping from persecution. Gradgrind desperately begs Bitzer to leave, asking the young man if he has a heart. Much as he had defined a horse in factual terms, Bitzer coldly answers, “No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood can doubt that I have a heart” (288). Bitzer affirms that he is only moved by reason and is entirely self-serving, as he knows he will be promoted if he turns Tom in. He does not sympathize with the Gradgrinds and is completely immobile to emotional pleas.

Sissy Jupe is the exact opposite of Bitzer; her loving father raised her to be an affectionate young woman with strong morals, but due to her lack of early educational values she is unable to comprehend facts and fails in her studies. In one instance Mr. McChoakumchild asks what the first principle of science is and Sissy answers, “To do unto others as I would that they should do unto me” (62). She cannot make sense of linear knowledge and views everything in terms of emotional value. Sissy’s impracticality also keeps her from making sound judgments of the mind. She anxiously tells Louisa, “Every letter that I see in Mr. Gradgrind’s hand takes my breath away and blinds my eyes, for I think it comes from Father” (67). Sissy is blinded by her love for her father and refuses to accept that he is gone forever, as she even keeps his nine oils in total faith that he will return. Though Sissy fails in these aspects, she is also much more successful than Louisa in making emotional judgments and in expressing her love. While Louisa falls for Harthouse’s deception, Sissy sees who he is clearly and is obstinate to his advances as she firmly stands up to him for Louisa’s sake. Sissy is also careful to comfort Rachael when she recognizes her anguish over Stephen’s disappearance, displaying the kindness Sissy has for even total strangers. Although her loving upbringing gives her a compassionate and bright disposition, an improper balance between head and heart limits Sissy’s potential and prevents her from succeeding in other areas.

Mr. Sleary is able to effectively understand the importance of a balance between fact and fancy, leading him to be benevolent but sound in judgment. Introduced as the proprietor of the circus, Mr. Sleary is described as having “one fixed eye and one loose eye” and being “never sober and never drunk” (42). These details suggest a balance in his character as well as his ability to see in both a linear and nonlinear fashion. He advises Sissy to consider Gradgrind’s proposal as he recognizes the importance of “a sound practical education” and the need for balance in her fanciful life (45). Still, he warns Sissy and Gradgrind not to spurn fancy and to make the best of their situations, essentially expressing that they are in charge of their own fate. In his final appearance Sleary reiterates his wise advice to Gradgrind, lisping, “People mutht be amuthed. They can’t be alwayth a-learning, nor yet they can’t be alwayth a-working, they an’t made for it” (294). Within the harsh realm of Coketown where everything is strictly labeled as either fact or fancy, Sleary is a symbol of the possibility of a harmony between the two. Though Sleary’s insightful wisdom may be overlooked based on his position and class, he truly understands the significance of a multi-faceted life.

Although she never received Sleary’s words of wisdom, Jane Gradgrind is effectively educated in both fact and fancy, which ultimately leads her to become a well-developed and happy individual. Taught in Gradgrind’s factual system and influenced by Sissy’s affection, Jane is both intellectually bright and gently warmhearted. When Mrs. Gradgrind remarks that Jane bears a resemblance to Louisa, Louisa notices that “her sister’s was a better and brighter face than hers had ever been” and that Jane shares Sissy’s sweet, gentle expression (202). Through Jane it is clear that Louisa could have become a happy young woman had her childhood been one of fancy and wonder as Jane and Sissy’s were. Although she was raised in the same household as Louisa, the presence of love and tenderness made all the difference in Jane’s life. Because she was exposed to both fact and fancy, Jane represents the ideal balance between head and heart and the importance of nurturing and encouraging children.

In Hard Times the unfortunate downfalls of the characters that are only educated in one facet make it clear that fact and fancy should ideally be complementing instead of conflicting. Having both “a wisdom of the Head” and “a wisdom of the Heart” promotes balance and fulfillment, ultimately leading to a happier life (226). Although Hard Times was written in the Victorian period, it is clear that there are several parallels between Coketown and modern society. In some aspects the drilling of facts has become even more of an issue as there is increasing pressure put on children and teenagers through testing, classes, and extracurricular activities. However, as Charles Dickens states, “It rests with you and me whether, in our two fields of action, similar things shall be or not” (300). Ultimately our fates are in our own hands, and raised with such balance in our lives we will be equipped with the tools to make the right decisions that will not only improve our own lives, but the lives of others.

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Inequality in Hard Times’ By Charles Dickens And ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ By Harper Lee

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

This assignment will explore exploitation primarily throughout ‘Hard Times’ by Charles Dickens and ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee, hereinafter referred to as HT and TKAMB, while slightly touching on hypocrisy in some parts. This assignment will also apply Marxist, Post-colonialism, and colonialism literary theory throughout the texts and include an analysis of narrative voice and structure as well as key images and devices such as the use of metaphor, or foreshadowing. This text will also include quotations from both texts and show how they back up the point that is being made, as well as using third person formal narrative throughout. Both books will be discussed equally, and finally will include an analysis of the effects of specific language used in both novels.

HT by Charles Dickens is set in the Victorian age primarily attacking on the then existing social problems that existed, educational system, caste system, economic systems and much more. Dickens obviously states his hatred towards the divorce law which remains a pleasure of the rich people. Stephen Blackpool, a ‘hand’ in an industry had a drunk and brutish wife, wanted a divorce from her, but can’t because of his unfortunate poor financial condition and was not able to afford the costly fees of a divorce. The cruelty of poor working class by the rich industrialist is the main point of resentment in the novel. The hard workers are referred to simply as “Hands” without any emotions whatsoever, which shows that they are counted only in terms of work, production and manufacturing. The novel is a radical representation of the economic difference of the age where the rich are extremely rich and the poor have abject poverty. All the system is in contradiction of the blue collar workers. The ‘Hands’ were always suppressed by law, trade union and their employers. This story represents the struggles and realism that Victorian people had to face, such as sexism, poverty and horrible working environments, and also this story portrays a very accurate colonial experience, showing the town in a state of takeover by Mr. Gradgrind, who imposes on the town and creates his own rules and philosophies to run the school.

Firstly, this assignment will explain the occurrences of HT as much as possible. The first example of inequality that occurs is in Chapter 4: Mr.Bounderby, ‘Then comes the question; said the eminently practical father, with his eyes on the fire, ‘in what has this vulgar curiosity its rise?’. Bounderby theorizes that Sissy Jupe, the circus entertainer’s daughter who attends Gradgrind’s school, may have led the young Gradgrind’s astray. Gradgrind agrees with this accusation and sets out to inform Sissy’s father that Sissy is no longer welcome at the school, this is already foreshadowing what Sissy’s future is to become, and what Grandgrind’s thoughts of Sissy really are. This child is being treated differently due to her difference in circumstances to others, creating a clear inequality between her and the way Gradgrind treats other students in comparison, especially since this is a circumstance with his own children it makes him biased to the situation at hand as he is also the person who runs the school, creating a completely unjust decision. Following this decision in chapter 5 and 6, Gradgrind finds himself following Sissy and witnessing her misfortune, only to find her father the circus master in a dark tavern representing his mysterious introduction, who plans to abandon sissy as he has lost his ability to perform. This in itself is already hypocrisy, because Gradgrind is doing the exact thing he shunned his children and sissy for, being curious. Gradgrind from this information then decides to take Sissy into his own home and raise her according to his philosophy of fact. Sissy agrees to the arrangement, principally because she believes her father will come back for her. Following on to Chapter 11: No Way Out, Stephen, disturbed by his alcoholic wife’s re-appearance decides to visit Mr. Bounderby the following day to ask humbly if he has any legal recourse and any possibility of obtaining a divorce, Bounderby goes on to explain that only the wealthy can obtain divorces and that Stephen would be better off just accepting his miserable situation. This is clear inequality between the poor and the most fortunate, making it almost impossible to gain a divorce without money. ‘Suppose from a thousand to fifteen hundred pound,’ said Mr. Bounderby. ‘Perhaps twice the money.’ ‘There’s no other law?’ ‘Certainly not.’ Time passes, moving relentlessly like the machinery of a factory. In Chapter 14: The Great Manufacturer, Mr. Gradgrind tells sissy that she is hopeless at school but that she may continue to live at stone lodge and care for Mrs. Gradgrind. Sissy is also being stereotyped to the female role of caring, feminists especially reading this will be impacted and outraged.

Using Marxist theory ‘A Marxist analysis of a text will explore the ways in which the ruling influencers of society can be said to oppress the lower class in some shape or form, while acting with their own interests. This includes the act of commodification and exploitation of the labour of the working class’. Sissy is a great representation of problems the lower class had to deal with during these times. For example, her father is forced to abandon her due to the fact that he is no longer able to perform, he has no backup job or education. Sissy is then forced to attend school where only facts are taught and no other approach to education is taken, all at the same time as Mr. Gradgrind is adopting Sissy. Sissy following this didn’t do so well in school, so Gradgrind decides her only option is to care for Mrs. Gradgrind. This chapter explores both the lower class and and the feminist point of view in these times, if school wasn’t for you, which it is not for everyone then you are either forced to care/clean as a female, or forced to labour as a male, this being if you were lower class of course. Gradgrind as a ruling influencer of the society, has final say on what sissy does with no disbelief from anyone as well as owning the school this makes him even more powerful and influential, and because of this is able to exploit sissy and other members of society as he chooses and use them to his advantage as he has done so with Sissy. Mr Gradgrind as the owner of the school also has control over education and chooses what he teaches, which allows him to exploit the working class as he chooses. Following this he also becomes a member of parliament, giving him access to more influence in his town and more control. Also, despite Stephen’s clear misfortune when it comes to his marriage is advised by Gradgrind that he can do nothing about the divorce as it will cost money, and does not offer any other help or advice. The language that Charles Dickens uses to portray Mr Gradgrind makes him seem a very powerful, outspoken and respected character, but this language and the way hes portrayed just seems to give the impression something about him just isn’t right. Colonialism can also be applied to Mr Gradgrind, as he is a foreign invader who has gained power over education and because of this influences Sissy a local girl in a very negative way, and uses her for his own benefit and exploits her.

TKAMB by Harper Lee is primarily about growing up under extraordinary circumstances in the 1930s in the southern United States. The story is narrated by a young girl named Jean Louise Finch who is always almost called by her nickname, Scout. The story covers a span of three years, during which the main characters undergo significant changes. Scout Finch lives with her brother Jem and their father Atticus in the town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a small, close-knit town, and every family has its social station depending on where they live, who their parents are, and how long their ancestors have lived in Maycomb. A widower, known by the name of Atticus raises his children by himself, with the help of kindly neighbours and a black housekeeper named Calpurnia. Scout and Jem almost instinctively understand the complexities and machinations of their neighbourhood and town. The only neighbour who puzzles them is the mysterious Arthur Radley, nicknamed Boo, who never seems to come outside often. When Dill, another neighbour’s nephew starts spending summers in Maycomb, the three children begin an obsessive quest to lure Boo outside.

The first example of inequality that occurs in TKAMB is in Chapter 2: ‘she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me anymore, it would interfere with my reading. “Teach me?” I said in surprise. “He hasn’t taught me anything, Miss Caroline. Atticus aint got time to teach me anything,” I added, when Miss Caroline smiled and shook her head.’ Scout is being victimized and exploited by her teacher’s inexperience, Scout means well but receives only punishment in return. The rigid protocols demanded by the law and by Miss Caroline’s method of teaching are shown to be insufficient and irrational. For example, Burris Ewell can keep the law happy by coming to school only one day a year, while Scout induces her teacher’s wrath simply by learning to read at an early age. This educational disaster fails to meet the needs of either student, and is a great example of post-colonialism theory; post-colonialism in a nutshell, imagine a random bunch of people enter your house, re-arrange your furniture and eat all your food, and when you ask them kindly to leave they just tell you they have very big guns. Eventually, they up and leave, leaving the house in a state unrecognisable with everything re-arranged, except you are almost use to the way they’ve mistreated the house. Now, you will have to deal the way the house is left, now take those feelings you feel and apply it to an entire nation, and then multiply that nation by all the nations that have been settled or colonized by other nations. A new teacher has come along with a distaste for children and an inability to connect and created new rules and regulations for teaching which sees Scout and many other children at a large disadvantage, causing problems for the original families that have been in Maycomb for generations. This situation also foreshadows the relationship between Miss Caroline and Scout, as well as Scout’s future connection with education despite having nothing but good intentions. As Scout being the narrator as well, this bring sympathy to her situation, this gives a clear insight into her perspective.

Inequality and hypocrisy take place during the game Jem, Scout and Dill made a game called ‘Boo Radley’. Radley’s place is described as a dark, gloomy mysterious place, and has many rumours spread throughout the town about it. ‘Jem gulped down his second glassful and slapped his chest. “I know what we are going to play,” he announced. “Something new, something different.” “What?” asked Dill. “Boo Radley.” The game was basically a dialogue of the Radley family, and Jem, Dill and Radley all played different roles each day. All 3 of them are treating Boo Radley unequal because of rumours and the way he is, ridiculing him if it is to go that far. This is also a level of hypocrisy coming from scout, who was treated unequal at school because she learnt to read at an early age.

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The Representation Of Family in Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield“ And “Hard Times“

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

“‘My dear friend Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘accidents will occur in the best-regulated families” – Charles Dickens

As Mr. Micawber stated in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, there is no family that has a perfect or trouble-free life. Throughout history family’s role in the society, as well its definition, has been changing. Many people are acquainted with the fact that Victorian families tended to achieve certain ideal. However, the reality is probably somewhat different. The prudishness, strictness, restraining and firmness are all characteristics frequently used to describe people who lived in the Victorian Britain. Taking that into account, it highly contradicts with the image of true domestic values. Claudia Nelson (2007) demonstrates that for the Victorians, as for ourselves, the way we conceptualize the ideal family have an important influence on individual psychology and the internal workings of actual families as well as on public and political debates. Many factors influence the role of family, one them being the social, political and economic situation in a country.

In this thesis I will explore the representation of family in two novels by English novelist Charles Dickens. The theme of family is often regarded as Dickens’ specialty, and he is considered an icon of Victorian respectability and of, in particular, so-called Victorian family values (Furneaux, 2010). In an 1855 review for Blackwood’s, Dickens was praised by Margaret Oliphant as the pre-eminent novelist of the middle-class family:

The middle class in itself is a realm of infinite gradations. But nowhere does the household hearth burn brighter – nowhere is the family love so warm – the natural bonds so strong; and this is the ground which Mr. Dickens occupies par excellence – the field of his triumphs, from which he may defy all his rivals without fear”.

The narratives that I have chosen are David Copperfield and Hard Times. Although there are many different families in these novels, I will focus on three families from each novel. Each of these families is different and plays significant role in understanding the novels’ plot. However, some other characters and families may be mentioned in order to thoroughly explain certain aspects relating to the ‘central’ families. The main aim of this paper is to find out whether the portrayal of family in Charles Dickens’ novels David Copperfield and Hard Times reflects the social situation of the nineteenth century England society. One of the reasons for setting out on this project is a book by Catherine Waters, Dickens and the Politics of the Family, in which she explores family matters in major novels by Dickens, but leaves out David Copperfield and Hard Times. Exploring the portrayal of family in these novels will provide further insight into the Victorian family, as well as into the social situation at that time. Furthermore, since David Copperfield is regarded as Dickens’ autobiography, studying the theme of family may reveal and justify his own attitudes toward family. Many history books and articles have been written on the subject of family and studying them may be useful to understand particular situations from the novels, hence the methodology used will be comparing and evaluating this information, together with my own expectations. In other words, the novels’ characters, plots, family structures and other scholarly literature on this subject will be consulted in order to find out to what extent does Dickens’ fiction represent the real-life Victorian family.

Firstly, I will give a brief overview of the historical background because it helps us understand the factors which influenced family life. After that, a short account of the definition of family will be presented, followed by Charles Dickens’ portrait, with the emphasis on his own family.

The second section is devoted to exploring families in David Copperfield. In this novel, we get acquainted with all kinds of families and family ties that affect the protagonist’s life. The major topic is marriage in which spouses are condemned to complex lives and death is a way of escape or relief from an oppressive marriage for spouses in the novel. Also, the question of stepparents and untraditional families is tackled.

The third section offers a depiction of families in Hard Times. In this narrative, we are presented with the industrial revolution’s tough impact on families and their suffering due to its cruelty. Therefore, family, as the nucleus of English society, is represented as the key to bettering that society. Also, Dickens’ dealing with the question of divorce and failure of social paternalism will be elucidated.

Lastly, the findings of this project will be summarized and a short conclusion will be provided. Hopefully, this work will contribute to understanding an important aspect of social life in the age of change and, once more, attest the importance of Dickens’ works.

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Analysis of the Character of Mr. Gradgrind

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

Early in Hard Times, Dickens develops the portrait of Gradgrind in the classroom delivering a lesson centred on horses at his model school to his model students. Dickens carries Gradgrind’s factual theories, utilitarianism and educational system principle into his domestic family life as well as his schoolroom. Throughout the novel’s earliest chapters, we begin to learn in more detail Gradgrind’s philosophy put into practise and the interactions with the students that he teaches. Mr Gradgrind’s name represents a powerful example of Dickens use of caricature. Gradgrind is a harsh, forceful-sounding word and the use of repeated G’s and a short ‘a,’ creates the automatic presumptions that the reader has towards him. The word grind represents something being worn down, for example machinery, and this is a large aspect of Coketown life. Grinding something, is reducing it to what you want it to be. Just like Gradgrind is sculpturing his students into representatives of himself.

Dickens uses descriptive language that reflects the personality of Mr Gradgrind. The repeated use of ‘cellarage’ conveys that his eyes are like caves, that they have room in them, reflecting a dark, dingy cellar. They reflect a cold, dank personality that lacks an authentic love and feeling for emotion and life. However, Dickens describes him as ‘eagerly sparkled,’ this shows an image of his eyes, but suggests in more detail that they are only alive when he is dealing with facts and figures. Dickens shows that Gradgrind has a ‘square forefinger’ portraying his obsession with a straight, ordered and uniformed way of living and learning. This also links to Gradgrind’s dismissive action as he ‘waved off the objections calling with his hand,’ and rejecting the way that Sissy has been brought up; he shows both his arrogance and his control of others.

Grandgrind’s language fits his character throughout this text. Dickens uses language that indicates that Gradgrind has a harsh and controlling personality. The short clipped sentences, ‘Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations,’ all underline and suggest a man who doesn’t waste words, Mr Gradgrind is able to articulate exactly what he wants to put across to his students quickly and more importantly efficiently. The repetition of his names, ‘Thomas Gradgrid, Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind,’ conveys his importance and his awareness of his standing and his place in the hierarchy of Coketown. Mr Gradgrid shows this control by telling Sissy how she should introduce herself ‘Don’t call yourself Sissy,’ Gradgrid humiliates her and shows her who has authority. Gradgrind also tells her that the circus and horses have no place in the schoolroom, she isn’t entitled to share her own opinion, ’you mustn’t talk about that, here’ and ‘you mustn’t tell us about the ring, here.’ Sissy is told not to address her father in that way, again illustrating Gradgrind’s control over his students. Gradgrind wants Sissy to propose her father as ‘a veterinary surgeon, a farrier and horse-breaker,’ Gradgrind wants to cabal her father with factual definitions. Sissy seems to accept what he says but we can tell she is truly frightened of him through her body language. The use of Gradgrind’s mathematical language conveys his obsessive nature and Dickens portrays this using humour; ‘multiplication table always in his pocket,’ ‘pair of scales’ and ‘simple arithmetic,’ all show that he is not using any ‘fancy,’ language or allowing any emotion, instincts, affections or feelings to be shown. His actions and thoughts are based on logic facts, period.

Mr Gradgrind, interacts with his students in different ways, treating them differently because of the facts and figures that they possess. Sissy is nervous, polite and embarrassed ‘number twenty, blushing…curtseying,’ when Gradgrind interacts with her. Dickens shows us her vulnerability and embarrassment when she is unable to define a horse. The children at his school are numbers in a system and not given names, Dickens dehumanises them, ‘pitchers to be filled with facts’ implies that he won’t allow them to do subjects that are creative or involve the imagination, these children aren’t allowed to be breathing, living, emotional beings. Dickens uses a metaphor that indicates war and destructive imagery ‘seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts,’ gives the reader a sense of the force of his character and passionate belief that Gradgrind will ‘blow’ the children out of their childhood. Gradgrind tells us the true extent he will go to until facts and figures are all these children live by, ’imaginations to be stormed away,’ he won’t allow for any imagination or fancy in the classroom and it therefore must be discarded. One of the most significant features of this passage is when Sissy Jupe is asked to define a horse, ‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ Sissy is unable to give Gradgrind a factual definition of a horse, as she knows the creatures well as breathing, loving animals. Sissy’s father works with them everyday, she has grown up with them in her everyday life, not thinking of them as a statement of the exact meaning of a word. Throughout the novel, Sissy discovers that she can’t fully understand facts and figures and her difficulty to understand them becomes harder; this scene is just the beginning of her struggles in the schoolroom

Thomas Gradgrind is a representative character of the utilitarian principle of Victorian political economy, a man who prizes facts above anything else. He is introduced into Hard Times as a harsh, controlling, hard-nosed, shaped-tongued protagonist, who is dismissive of others and his opinions are conveyed forcefully and he uses them to be in control and impetuously obeyed. Gradgrind is controlled over his theory of educational system based on the importance of facts and figures. Subsequently when Gradgrind asks Bitzer for his definition of a horse, after Sissy cannot, he refers to Bitzer as his name and not a number like Sissy previously. Gradgrind attempts to make his mark on Sissy by applying his way of teaching to her but eventually comes to the realisation that there is a fault in the educational system.

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Symbolism of Geometry in Dickens’ Hard Times

May 10, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Charles Dickens’ literary satire, Hard Times, geometry–especially that of squares and circles–serves an important thematic function. The “man of hard facts,” Thomas Gradgrind, has a “square forefinger,” “square wall of a forehead,” and a “square coat, square legs, square shoulders.” (11) The very schoolroom in which Gradgrind teaches is described as “plain, bare, monotonous vault” (11)–this again evoking a square–on an inclined plane, with lines of children filling the room. In contrast, Sleary’s circus, where Sissy Jupe comes from, suggests an ongoing, perfect circle, that never changes. Even when the reader visits the carefree and lively circus a decade after Sissy first attends Gradgrind’s model school, the same clowns performing in the circus and Sissy herself are still present. Thus, Dickens uses the geometry of shapes to demonstrate the differences in lifestyle between the hard-edged, “square” Gradgrind, and the vivacious, “circular” Sissy. In geometry, a circle is a figure with no starting points or ending points, and can be rotated any way and look the same. Sissy, who has grown up in the circus ring, represents imagination, independence, and, most important, endurance. At the start of Hard Times, the dark-eyed and dark-haired girl is not very smart, but content; she expresses her creativity–not her ability to recite facts–through her dreams of a carpet that “was very pretty and pleasant” (16). By referencing her circus roots, Dickens reminds the reader that “happy Sissy’s happy children [loved] her” even after a decade has passed in the novel (292). Compared to the Gradgrind children and model students, Sissy is quite probably the most stable character in the novel, because the never-ending pulse of circus life has ultimately shaped her into an individual of perfect, eternal love; Dickens reinforces this by continually referring to the circular aspect of the ring. While others change around Sissy, she offers guidance, as she does to Gradgrind’s daughter Louisa, even when she admits that she hated Sissy, responding: “‘I have always loved you, and have always wished that you should know it’” (224). The perfection and continuity of a circle suits the personality of the reliable Sissy Jupe. Conversely, Thomas Gradgrind has become emotionally hardened by his mantra: “Stick to Facts, sir!” (11) Like the square that Dickens so often compares him to, he is rigid, sharp, and like a box for holding facts and knowledge. Gradgrind has no support or sympathy for his daughter Louisa, or any other human being: all he essentially wants to accomplish is filling “the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged [at his school]” with “imperial gallons of facts…until they were full to the brim” (12). However, the appearance of Sissy Jupe immediately begins to melt away the corners of his box-shaped heart. Early in the novel, Dickens uses the word “square” to describe Gradgrind and his household at least ten times, but as the novel progresses as Sissy begins to take an active role in his life, the reader notices the word less and less. Gradgrind begins to regain his redemption from insensitivity by letting Sissy stay at his model school and house very early in the novel. By the end of Hard Times, Sissy’s influence on his household has affected him deeply; he allows Louisa to come back home after her disastrous marriage fails, but most importantly, he learns to ask for kindness and he realizes his failure as a teacher of all things factual. The cold, calculating, and determined Bitzer, a former model pupil of Gradgrind’s, is willing to sacrifice Gradgrind’s son Tom Junior for his own betterment, but Gradgrind surprisingly feels compassion for his son and asks for compassion: “ ‘Is [your heart, Bitzer,] accessible,’ cried Mr. Gradgrind, ‘to any compassionate influence?’” (281) Formerly, the square and sensible Gradgrind would have never begged for help, but under the influence of Sissy, Gradgrind pleads and realizes the mistake of his utilitarian schooling system. In the first two chapters of Hard Times, the reader immediately sees the stark difference between the severity of the cubic schoolroom and the lively circus. While Sissy Jupe infects and changes all with the virtue she carries from the circus–which carries on even without her–Gradgrind initially stifles the imagination of his young schoolchildren and pours facts into their box-like minds. However, Sissy, who is the catalyst of change, manages to transform the character, the shape, of her employer. Sissy melts the hard edges of Gradgrind’s square façade into a loving, kind human being, who in turn becomes part of the circle of life.

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Love versus Reality in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times

April 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Hard Times, Charles Dickens uses the character of Signor Jupe to portray the clash between love and reality. Signor Jupe reveals his philosophy of love as a meaningful force through his actions at the start of the novel. By accepting responsiblity for the formative years of his daughter’s life, he positions her as a stark contrast to the children subjected to the Gradgrind system. Although he never appears in the novel as a physical presence, it is this very lack of presence that allows him to emphasize the theme of love versus reality. Signor Jupe exists in the novel only as an idea; yet he is a character who, without the use of dialogue or direct action, profoundly embodies one of the major themes of the book. The philosophy of love as a meaningful and moving force in human affairs is strengthened by his actions in the early chapters of the novel; specifically, when he leaves Sissy on her own. Sissy holds strongly to the idea that Signor Jupe left her in order to provide her with a better future – that he saw her witnessing his slow deterioration, and left to spare her that pain. She also obviously believes that he will return to her in the future. Gradgrind states “that if [Sissy] had been properly trained from an early age she would have remonstrated to herself on sound principles the baselessness of these fantastic hopes” (1). The contrast between these two philosophies is startling; they represent opposite ends of the spectrum. However, despite Sissy’s continued immersion in the Gradgrind system, she retains hope for her father’s return, and continues entertaining her own ideas of why he left. By leaving Sissy, Jupe provides a small opening in which to insert human emotion into the Gradgrind family and the Gradgrind system, pitting them against each other in a test to determine whether they possess stability and endurance, and whether or not the human soul can exist in their system without distortion. Finally, even Gradgrind himself is forced to succumb to the effects of human emotion, disavowing the truth in his own system, and switching roles with Sissy, learning from her what she learned from her father. It is apparent that without the influence and disappearance of Signor Jupe, these events would have unfolded in a different manner, removing Sissy from the lives of the Gradgrinds.Signor Jupe does not, at any point in the novel, appear as a flesh and blood character. Rather, he is a representation of a contrasting philosophy which is given a name and history in order to better explain how Sissy remains a stolid outpost of love against the assault of the Gradgrind system. In one scene, Louisa questions Sissy about her life with her father, and Sissy speaks of “wrong books” (2) that she read on occasion to her father. Obviously they were books of a fictional nature, books that never would have been allowed in the Gradgrind household. This is one instance where Signor Jupe is insinuated into the novel in order to offer an alternative to the world of facts and calculations espoused by Gradgrind. In small ways, the story that Sissy tells Louisa continues to oppose Gradgrind, even after she has finished speaking; for example, Louisa begins to hope as fervently as Sissy does for a letter from Signor Jupe, although her father regards this as extremely unlikely. Even though she has been trained to be skeptical about such things, the hope that the letter may come brings tears to Louisa’s eyes as well as Sissy’s – another triumph for the philosophy of love represented by Signor Jupe. Because he is not a character who engages in direct, spoken dialogue, Signor Jupe is accorded a kind of thought dialogue, which makes him a constant presence that renders him far more significant than some of the more major characters in the novel. Dickens does not directly refer to Signor Jupe’s location or well-being until the return of the dog Merrylegs at the very end of the book. Although he finally reveals that he will not be returning to Sissy, by this point that small fact hardly matters; his influence has succeeded in destroying the Gradgrind system, and in showing that love and emotional health are far more important than living in the confines of a calculated reality.

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Black Pools of Tragedy

March 20, 2019 by Essay Writer

Charles Dicken’s Hard Times is a novel depicting the destructive forces of utilitarianism on the modern world following the Industrial Revolution. Through the vivid characters interwoven throughout the text, Dickens exemplifies the devastation caused by the mechanization and dehumanization of human beings as factory workers. This central theme is most readily seen in the tragic character of Stephen Blackpool and the unbefitting repetition of struggles he is forced to endure for the sake of morality and personal integrity. Even Stephen’s last name alludes to the somber, black pools of tragedy that immerse his life as a humble factory worker. Dickens uses the setting in which Stephen Blackpool lives, as well as his appearance, speech, social interactions, and death, to unashamedly attack the destructive nature of utilitarianism.In the tenth chapter of Dicken’s Book the First, Stephen Blackpool is first introduced as a character in the drab Coketown factory setting. “In the hardest working part of Coketown…where Nature was as strongly bricked out as killing airs and gases were bricked in…the whole an unnatural family, shouldering, and trampling, and pressing one another to death…among the multitude of Coketown…lived a certain Stephen Blackpool, forty years of age” (68). Stephen comes from the inner most heart of the laboring town. Whereas personified “Nature” would be expected to live amongst a healthy community of people, artificial bricks have been erected in Coketown to create an “unnatural” town with images of deadly gas, fumes, and smog. Even the family unit, which is often viewed as the core element of most communities, has been cannibalized and set against itself with competition, “shouldering, and trampling.” Within the harsh and oftentimes dangerous world of factory labor, a man of forty years of age would be considered an elder worker. For Steven to have survived to the age of forty attests to his diligence and endurance as a loom weaver. The setting in which Stephen is described emphasizes the contrast between the external, noxious environment and his true identity that is revealed as a man of heart, integrity, and goodness in the following chapters.Decades of work as a weaver in Coketown have shaped the physical appearance of Stephen’s body: “a rather stooping man, with a knitted brow, a pondering expression of face, and a hard-looking head sufficiently capacious” (68). Stern, weathered, and “stooping” images depict Stephen’s physical condition, but beyond the deep brow and hunching shoulders lie glimpses into his true character: a “pondering,” searching, “hard-looking” man with an ample capacity for goodness. Following this brief description of Stephen’s appearance, the reader is immediately told, “whereby somebody else had become possessed of his roses, he had been possessed of somebody else’s thorns in addition to his own” (68). Undoubtedly Stephen Blackpool is an afflicted character with ragged scars from life in Coketown. The roses of life, whether rooted in a happy marriage, a faithful family, a satisfying job, or a life of fruitful works, have all been denied to Stephen. As a man with thorns and pain, Stephen cannot survive in his present position. Coketown and other factory towns driven solely by industry and production do not value individuals like Stephen. “He was a good power-loom weaver, and a man of perfect integrity” (69). The primary value of Stephen’s life is placed in his identity as a “good power-loom weaver.” Only secondarily can he be described as having impeccable integrity because workers in this utilitarian system were solely valued in the quantitative measures of production. Through the character of Stephen Blackpool, Dickens asserts integrity and individuality have no place to root and grow in these bleak conditions.Allegorically, Stephen can be seen as a character that represents what happens to industrial workers when they are dehumanized and valued only for the sake of factory output. While this allegorical characterization holds true throughout Dicken’s novel, Stephen can also be examined on a distinct and unique level when compared to the other factory workers. When seen in relation to the other laborers, referred to as “Hands” in Hard Times, Stephen “held no station among the other Hands who could make speeches and carry on debates” (68). His simple speech and inability to deny personal integrity leads Stephen into further tragedy once Slackbridge and other union agitators rise up against him. After being cast out of his workers’ group, Stephen must report to the factory owner Mr. Bounderby. When prompted by Bounderby to relay information on the individuals instigating the United Aggregate Tribunal, Steven responds, “They’ve not doon me a kindness…but what believes as he has doon his duty by the rest and by himself. God forbid as I, that ha’ ett’n an drooken wi’ em, an seet’n wi’ em, and toil’n wi’ em, and lov’n ’em, should fail fur to stan by ’em ‘wi the truth, let ’em ha doon to me what they may” (151). Even though Stephen has been rejected and abandoned by his fellow workers, he refuses to give Bounderby any information to use against the laborers. Not only does Stephen’s character reflect the contrast between the agitators’ corruption and his own standard of virtue, but his character also emphasizes the contrasts between the laborers’ poverty and brotherhood as compared to Bounderby’s affluence and self-interest. To greater exemplify the disparity between Stephen and Bounderby’s characters, Dickens writes, “‘Now, a’ God’s name,’ said Stephen Blackpool, ‘show me the law to help me!’ ‘Hem! There’s a sanctity in this relation of life,’ said Mr Bounderby, ‘and-and-it must be kept up'” (79). In communities like Coketown, equality between the factory laborers and owners cannot exist because prominent figures like Bounderby are sure to maintain “sanctity” and inequality no matter what the moral cost. When looking at the character of Stephen Blackpool, Dickens stresses the stark contrast and incompatibility between the ideals of utilitarian communities as opposed to the ideals of a man like Stephen Blackpool with “perfect integrity.”Once Stephen is exiled from Coketown for his alleged and unfounded blasphemy, he finds himself in search of a new home. Upon Stephen’s departure from Coketown, Dickens remarks, “so strange to turn from the chimneys to the birds. So strange to have the road-dust on his feet instead of the coal-grit. So strange to have lived to his time of life, and yet to be beginning like a boy this summer morning!” (167). So strange to fathom the persecution thrown on a man like Stephen Blackpool with faultless character. When Stephen’s name is eventually slandered for the robbery of Bounderby’s bank, he decidedly returns to Coketown to defend his honor and integrity. However, after falling down the Old Hell Shaft, Stephen expresses his dying wish to Mr. Gradgrind, “Sir, yo will clear me an mak my name good wi’ aw men. This I leave to you” (274). Without a name of honor to live on, Coketown’s agitators would eternally defeat Stephen’s integrity; therefore a cleared name for Stephen is of utmost importance. Once Stephen succumbs to his fatal wounds from the fall, Dickens writes, “the star had shown him where to find the God of the poor; and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he had gone to his Redeemer’s rest” (275). Only in death can a good man like Stephen find peace and rest from the black pools of tragedy that plagued his life in the utilitarian setting of Coketown.Dicken’s theme of depicting the destructive forces of utilitarianism, mechanization, and dehumanization is found throughout the context of Hard Times, and specifically in the character of Stephen Blackpool. By shaping the honor displayed in this character’s physical appearance, speech, social interactions and death to blatantly contrast the lack of morality in utilitarian industrialization, Dickens voices his condemnation on the destructive dehumanization present during this modern era. Unless changes are made, in the words of Stephen Blackpool­a man of impeccable integrity­the world will flood with black pools of tragedy and inevitably become “a muddle! Aw a muddle!” (273).

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Louisa as Victim

March 6, 2019 by Essay Writer

Charles Dickens’ Hard Times is a bleak book. Its characters are a collection of victims and victimizers, each pitiable or damnable. Of this sorrowful lot, perhaps the most tragic individual is Louisa Gradgrind. Ingrained since childhood with various “Facts” and ” – ologies,” Louisa is rendered emotionally sterile by her “eminently empirical” father, her “whelp” of a brother, and her boorish husband. When a charismatic young charmer unleashes within her a flood of feeling, she recognizes her life to be empty, and is deeply changed. Louisa’s transition, from a model of “Fact” to a victim thereof, is a profound event, and forms the climax of the major plot line. Dickens crafts the metamorphosis expertly in the chapters immediately following the bank robbery (VIII through XII of Book II) by sending Louisa through a carefully structured sequence of events – metaphorically described by Mrs. Sparsit as a “staircase.” These events show Louisa to be a complex and dynamic character, able to recognize her misery, yet unable to escape it. Dickens first sets Louisa toward her transition after the bank robbery. Louisa fears her brother Tom may know something about what happened that he is not telling, and goes to his room late one night to find out. She approaches him as always, in love, beseeching him with “Tom, have you anything to tell me? If you ever loved me in your life, and have anything concealed from everyone besides, tell it to me” (189). Disregarding her, Tom replies to this emotional plea with a cold “I don’t know what you mean, Loo. You have been dreaming” (189). She tries again and again to solicit an answer, pouring her heart out to her brother. Tom, however, remains unresponsive. Her last question, “Have you nothing more to tell me?” (191), after she has already said goodnight, indicates that Louisa is not satisfied by her brother’s claim to ignorance, and that she suspects he is hiding something. With this scene Dickens reveals a small change in Louisa; she no longer places absolute trust in her brother. The author peels away one of Louisa’s most important relationships. By beginning to discover the truth about her brother, Louisa has opened Pandora’s box, and starts to think about the quality of her other relationships. Her husband, the blustery Mr. Bounderby, certainly seems in need of review. One morning shortly after her encounter with Tom, Louisa finds herself fed up with her husband when he becomes upset over a minor dispute involving Mrs. Sparsit. “‘What is the matter with you?’ asked Louisa, coldly surprised. ŒWhat has given you offense?'” (195). Louisa has never challenged Bounderby so openly, and indeed Mr. Harthouse thought that “she looked at [Bounderby]…with a proud color in her face that was a new change” (195). Louisa seems to be developing some mettle, and with it becoming less content with her life. Indeed, “the Sparsit action upon Mr. Bounderby … strengthened the dangerous alienation from her husband” (195). In this scene Dickens propels Louisa further toward rejection of her current life by having her realize her disdain for Mr. Bounderby. The next stair Dickens creates for poor Louisa to step down upon is the death of her mother. Mrs. Gradgrind has always been sickly, and her death does little to change her role in the novel. However, with her last words to Louisa she tells of “something – not an ology at all – that your father has missed” (199). While the old woman does not know what that something is, her mention of it confirms in Louisa what she has already begun to realize, that her life is blank. She ventures further down her staircase. It is important to note that Louisa has not come to all these realizations by herself, but has found a willing guide – tempter really – in the charming and knavish form of Mr. James Harthouse. Harthouse is a bored, well-to-do man who has come to Coketown to become acquainted with the way of things there. He has set his sights on Louisa, and “in degrees so fine that she could not retrace them if she tried” (196) has grown with her in “confidence against her husband” (195). Dickens uses Harthouse as a catalyst for Louisa’s rejection of the people in her life and as the primary agent for her change of character. When he makes his move one stormy night when Bounderby is away, James Harthouse unwittingly releases a flood of emotion in Louisa, and ushers the major story line toward its climax. As he begs and pleads with Louisa to love him, professing his undying devotion, she is clearly confused. She knows adultery is wrong, but cannot deny the feelings welling up within her, feelings she has ignored her entire life. Later she will tell her father, “if you ask me whether I have loved him, or do love him, I tell you plainly, Father, that it may be so. I don’t know” (218). The point is that Louisa has encountered something with which she cannot cope, despite all her training. In this disconcerted and jumbled state, Louisa tricks Harthouse into leaving, and flees home to confront her father. In this climactic scene Louisa blasts her father’s utilitarian system, and the reader sees her to be fully aware of the gaping hole in her life where soul and spirit should be. “Colorless,” “disheveled,” “defiant” and despairing” (215), Louisa demands of her father, “How could you give me life, and take from me all he inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the faces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, oh, Father, what have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here?” (215). This passionate speech is, of course, a significant departure from the girl who was a model of “Fact.” Dickens has built Louisa up to this point, and now she can no longer suppress her emotions . Her words are elegant and poetic; she employs vivid metaphors. Soliloquizing with the drama of a dying diva, the tragic girl finally collapses into an “insensible heap” (218) while crying to her father “in a terrible voice, ŒI shall die if you hold me! Let me fall upon the ground!'” (218). Louisa has, to say it bluntly, snapped. She could no longer take so meaningless a life, and fought her way free. She does not return to Mr. Bounderby, but ironically finds herself now being cared for by Sissy, the girl she once ignored. With Sissy’s help, Louisa will go on in life, and reclaim some of those things denied to her. Dickens’ forecast for her is hopeful and positive:”…Happy Sissy’s children loving her; all children loving her; she, grown learned in childish lore; thinking no innocent and pretty fancy ever to be despised; trying hard to know her humbler fellow-creatures, and to beautify their lives of machinery and reality with those imaginative graces and delights without which the heart of infancy will wither up; the sturdiest physical manhood will be morally stark death, and the plainest national prosperity figures can show will be the Writing on the Wall – she holding this course as part of no fantastic vow, or bond, or brotherhood, or sisterhood, or pledge, or convenant, or fancy dress, or fancy fair, but simply as a duty to be done.” (292)Louisa survived her descent down the staircase, and indeed emerged stronger. Through the ordeal Dickens has shown Louisa to be a complex and dynamic character; she has the insight to see past the world that entraps so many around her and the courage and strength of will to escape it. Though it is difficult to label any of the characters in Hard Times “triumphant,” Louisa does overcome great odds to free herself. While most of Dickens’ characters learn nothing throughout the novel, Louisa, driven by her extreme circumstances, perseveres – a single bright ember burning amongst the gray ash.

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