Hard Times From the Classic of World Literature
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.
Sociological Philosophies in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times
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.
The Gradgrinds’ Wisdom of the Head and Heart in Hard Times by Charles Dickens
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.
Inequality in Hard Times’ By Charles Dickens And ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ By Harper Lee
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.
The Representation Of Family in Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield“ And “Hard Times“
“‘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.
The symbolism of Christendom in “Hard Times”
In Dickens’s Hard Times, Christianity is often alluded to both symbolically and literally. Because of the time period in which the novel was written, the presence of these religious themes are not surprising, but the way Dickens presents these allusions, sometimes with an air of humor and cynicism, is unique.
Many Bible stories are incorporated into the stories of separate characters in the book, and Bible happenings or quotes are paralleled in the happenings of Coketown. Both Rachael and Stephan can be seen as Jesus figures, Rachael because she always cares for others and is Stephan’s light and love, and Stephan because he is, in a sense, a martyr at the hands of the upper class (Bounderby, Tom and others). Sissy can be seen as an angel figure, because she brings light and love to Louisa and Jane Gradgrind. Many characters, especially those like Stephan, Rachael and Sissy, quote bible passages, such as “Do unto others as you would do unto me”, which is Sissy’s answer to a statistics question at the McChoakumchild School.
Many other allusions to Christianity are placed inside the text, hidden in descriptions and passive passages rather than in dialogue or action passages. These are the allusions that add to the overall tone of the novel. Some are even referred to in chapter titles, as in Chapter I of Book the First, “The One Thing Needful”. This refers to the story in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus praises Mary for valuing God as the “one thing needful” over the trivialities of everyday life. Along with providing an immediate idea of the future religious allusions that may be used in the book, this chapter title sets a major theme of the novel: the idea that facts are, to Gradgrind, Bounderby and other characters, held to be as important as God, the one “needful” thing to be remembered and followed, and be valued above everyday life. Similarly, an Anglican prayer is inserted into a description of Coketown “…the McChoakumchild school was all fact, and the school of design was all fact, and the relations between the lying-in hospital and the cemetery, and what you couldn’t state in figures, or show to be purchasable in the cheapest market or saleable in the dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen.” (Bk the 1st; Ch. V; pg 37-38). The ending line, “…world without end, Amen”, is the ending line of many Anglican prayers. This, like the chapter title, helps to glorify fact to a godlike level, and sets it as a dogmatic presence in Coketown, more important and adhered to than religion itself.
For the most part, Christian references are embedded in descriptions of Coketown and the fact-based values that many of the characters hold dear. These references exalt Fact and utilitarianism to an almost god-like status, held dearer in some characters’ minds than religion itself. “A town so sacred in fact, and so triumphant in its assertion, of course it got on well? Why no…who belonged to the eighteen (religious) denominations? Because, whoever did, the laboring people did not…” (Book the first: Ch. V; pg. 38). This quote alludes to the fact that religion is not held in as high a value for most Coketown citizens as the utilitarian view of working and production. Furthermore, for the higher society men such as Gradgrind and Bounderby, religion is idle and not factually based, and is therefore not worth spending time on. Fact is much more important. Overall, this affects the tone of the novel by causing it to adopt an almost reverent view of hard fact, as though that is the true religion of Coketown. Dickens often hovers on the edge of satirical with his reverent references to the glory of fact, for example, Gradgrind uses “fact forbid” instead of God forbid or Heaven forbid; and the utilitarian characters ardently adhere to and defend fact to the point of stupidity; they are ridiculous in their earnest love of fact.
This use of satire and exaggeration backs up Dickens’s protest of the utilitarianism and class politics displayed by many of his characters, and, indeed, the city of Coketown itself. Hard Times is, above all else, a social commentary novel, and Dickens’s use of Christian allusions to glorify fact gives the reader an insight into the minds of his characters and helps with an understanding of Dickens’s disgust with the prevalent ideas of the time period. Additionally, the blind glorification of utilitarianism in the face of poverty, repression, and immorality makes the characters and ideas seem all the more inappropriate and ugly.
Analysis of the Character of Mr. Gradgrind
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.
James Harthouse, the Utilitarian Romantic
Though many have argued that Dickens used the character of James Harthouse to criticize Romanticism in his novel Hard Times, it is his utilitarianism that makes him such a danger. Harthouse himself notes early in the novel that there are many similarities between himself and the utilitarian Tom Gradgrind—for though Harthouse might in theory live his life for sensation, his disappointment in what he’s found has led him to look at things with a blandly unperturbed eye. “I have seen a little, here and there,” he says, “up and down: I have found it all to be very worthless…and I am going in for your respected father’s opinions—really because I have no choice of opinions, and may as well back them as anything else.” (100) Yet unlike the utilitarians, Harthouse cannot be redeemed by even the illusion of social purpose or responsibility. Dickens is able to illustrate this paucity of feeling by setting Harthouse, in his final scene, against the character of Sissy Jupe– whose earnest modesty and goodwill, coupled with a more elastic kind of sense, brings his own lack of character into sharp relief. It is Sissy, not Harthouse, whom Dickens puts forward as a model worth following—and it is Harthouse, not Sissy, who proves that disingenuousness matters much more than the label (Romantic, Utilitarian, or otherwise) that it is given. The emptiness of sentiment behind Harthouse’s speech is a first clue in this passage concerning his sincerity. When Sissy informs him that he is never to see Louisa again, his choice of words is Romantically dramatic—yet his actual reaction is one of rather speedy resignation. “Well! If it should unhappily appear,” he said, “after due pains and duty on my part, that I am brought to a position so desolate as this banishment, I shall not become the lady’s persecutor.” (174)A life without Louisa is for him apparently comparable to “banishment” or, as he says shortly before, an “exile” (174), and he insists that he considers any such state to be totally “desolate” (174). Yet even as Harthouse paints his pain so vividly, he dismisses it almost in the same breath by reverting to dull, dispassionate language. Any resistance on his part is considered to be nothing more that “due pains and duty,” evidently routine enough to be fulfilled by mere mention alone. His next thought—that he will “not become the lady’s persecutor”—is another example of how vapid powerful language becomes in his hands. The theatricality of the word “persecutor” could suggest that Harthouse feels the full weight of his punishment, and perhaps even more. But like the theater, Harthouse’s world is one of appearance alone, “a conscious polishing of but an ugly surface” (175). For even as he affects real dismay, he readily surrenders the girl he supposedly cares for.It is important to note that though Harthouse is a shallow being, he—like the Utilitarians—is not actually evil. If it is too much to say that his intentions are good, one can at least argue that they are not consciously bad. “I beg to be allowed to assure you,” he says to Sissy, “that I have had no particularly evil intentions, but have glided on from one step to another” (175). His division of Louisa’s seduction into different “steps” signals a cool-headed perspective—almost as if to suggest that Harthouse moved from step to step in the seduction much as he would move from step to step in a mathematical problem. Though he is completely devoid of warm sentiment, he is likewise incapable of any real malevolence because he sees everything before him on the same placid plane. The fact that he was still able, in such a state, to very nearly ruin a woman’s life is proof of the idea that a lack of passion can be far more destructive than a wealth of it. Sissy’s own earnestness serves as a forceful contrast here; “the fervor of this reproach” (174) that she gives completely disarms Harthouse, and at the same time it illustrates Dickens’ own idea of what a model citizen should be. When Harthouse asks Sissy what drove her to find him, she replies that her affection for Louisa motivated her: “I have only the commission of my love for her, and her love for me” (174). The rhythmic regularity of “my love for her, and her love for me” as well as the simplicity of the message itself comes as a soothing balm to Harthouse’s own worthless rhetoric. It is Sissy’s sense of human decency, her true compassion for others, that separates her from utilitarians like Gradgrind and alleged anti-utilitarians like Harthouse, who each view the world as a set of frigid observations. Yet Sissy herself is not completely devoid of logic, which is crucial to Dickens’ idea that sentimentality must be tempered with practicality. In her justification to Harthouse Sissy moves steadily from emotion to fact—saying first that she loves Louisa, next that Louisa has given Sissy her trust, and lastly that “I know something of her character and her marriage” (174). Her love for Louisa is perhaps of utmost importance, but at the same time Sissy is driven by incontrovertible knowledge, knowledge based on observation and reflection. Like Harthouse, Sissy knows about the failure of Louisa’s marriage, and this information is powerful; yet, even as she admits its importance, Sissy does not depend on it entirely. She does not know everything about Louisa; Dickens is careful to say that she only knows “something.” To he and Sissy both, knowing something and feeling something is infinitely better than knowing everything and feeling nothing, like the Utilitarians, or knowing nothing and feeling everything, like the Romantics. In short, Sissy embodies the best parts of two perilous extremities—emerging from the fray as an example for readers to follow. Harthouse, on the other hand, embodies the worst parts of each: He lacks a social conscience, like many a Romantic, but he’s completely unfeeling, like many a utilitarian. Left with more defects than he perhaps has a right to, he is ultimately left to his own idleness and lack of purpose, unable or unwilling to reform. It is interesting to note that though Harthouse remains unchanged, his utilitarian counterpart Gradgrind is transformed by the novel’s end into something to be admired—suggesting that, though both Harthouse and Gradgrind were initially cursed with an unfeeling perspective, Gradgrind was saved by a real desire to be useful. Harthouse, indifferent to the last, sails out of the novel as its greatest scoundrel–with only a vague sense of his own inadequacy and absolutely no inclination to do anything about it.
The Triumph of Mr. Gradgrind’s System: Louisa as a Wasteland in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times
“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts” (9) pronounces Mr. Thomas Gradgrind in the opening line of Charles Dickens’s novel Hard Times. Gradgrind employees this utilitarian philosophy in his schoolhouse and repeatedly reminds the reader that there is no room for idle fantasizing and that nothing matters but Fact. Not only does Gradgrind wield this belief in his school, but it is also the philosophy he teaches his own children within the walls of Stone Lodge. The mechanizing effects of Mr. Gradgrind’s teachings turn these children into true products of the Industrial Revolution—little machines. Gradgrind’s eldest child, Louisa, becomes the central example of the mechanization of people in Dickens’s Hard Times, and she serves as a powerful critique of the coldness and de-humanization of the Industrial Revolution. Louisa Gradgrind is the central female figure in Hard Times; she strives to suppress her passions and curiosities so she might please her father by living a life led by Fact. Her schooling has been a “mechanical art” (71) that never stooped to “the cultivation of the sentiments and affections” (71). Louisa is repeatedly warned by her father to “Never wonder” and continually reminded of the importance of Fact. Louisa’s education has created a nearly lifeless character, one who is seemingly void of warmth and does not adequately know how to recognize or express her own feelings. Louisa’s mechanical character is shadowed by a disturbingly mechanical world. The Industrial Revolution is at its height, and the effects of factory life on workers are paralleled by the effects of Gradgrind’s rational philosophy on his own children. The repetitive tasks of the factory workers are dangerous because they do not necessitate thought or evoke any sense of emotion. The factories themselves produce gray smog and dense haze that fills the sky of Coketown, and lifeless ashes that cover the buildings in which the workers must live. As a result, Coketown has been transformed into a “dense formless jumble”, covered by a “blur of soot and smoke,” (151) that creeps along the earth and proves to be nothing more than darkness. Thus, through this emphasis on setting, Dickens’s novel provides a damning appraisal of the Industrial Revolution, and implicitly argues that habit-intensive factory jobs threaten to transform people into things, to render them cold and hard like the machinery they operate, dark and blurred like the city they live in. Dickens suggests that when imagination is dulled, life will become a nearly unbearable existence, an existence without pleasure or meaning. Louisa, “the triumph of [Mr. Gradgrind’s] system” (288), feels the agony of such an existence. She is exposed solely to the methodology of her father’s system, but throughout the novel she proves to have reservations regarding such a philosophy. Louisa feels deep sympathy for her brother, convinces him to peep at the forbidden fancies of the circus, empathizes with Stephen Blackpool, and experiences emotional turmoil upon the arrival of James Harthouse. Louisa’s education may prevent her from fully understanding her emotions, but unlike her father, she acknowledges that those emotions exist and have some purpose within the framework of her life. Louisa falls somewhere in between the two extremes of Gradgrind’s system—Bitzer, the ideal product produced from the “model school”, and Sissy Jupe, who despite living with Mr. Gradgrind remains impervious to his system. At the close of the second book, the mechanization of Louisa’s education catches up with her, and she collapses at her father’s feet. It is her father’s repression of every outlet for play or fantasy that has created within Louisa an inability to properly deal with her emotions and has pushed her into a gray, lifeless depression. Before her collapse Louisa finally realizes her life is an unbearable litany of Fact, and as her long suppressed emotions break loose, she tells her father: “Your philosophy and your teaching will not save me. Now, Father, you have brought me to this” (288). It is only when he looks upon the “pride of his heart and the triumph of his system” in an “insensible heap” (288) at his feet that Mr. Gradgrind realizes his system has nearly destroyed his favorite child, and understands it is because of him that his daughter is so detached from others. Louisa is the product of Mr. Gradgrind’s parental cultivation, and recognizes at the close of the second book that both her home and her heart are a wasteland— that the garden of both Stone Lodge and “the graces of her soul” (284) have not been cared for properly. Louisa exclaims “What have you done, oh, Father, what you have done, with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here?” (284) and Mr. Gradgrind realizes that by watering his daughter’s heart only with Fact, he has exposed Louisa to “the frost and blight” (284) that have “spoiled” her. It is when Mr. Gradgrind realizes there may be something that is needful beyond Fact that he and Louisa are able to transform into something more than cold, hard products of the System, and begin sowing fresh seeds in the empty wastelands of their hearts.Works CitedDickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: Pocket Books, 2007.
Symbolism of Geometry in Dickens’ Hard Times
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.