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‘Dickens satirizes that respected Victorian figure, the self-made man’. (Paul Schlicke 1989)Is this how you interpret Dickens’ presentation of Bounderby?

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Introduction

B - 'Dickens satirizes that respected Victorian figure, the self-made man'. (Paul Schlicke 1989) Is this how you interpret Dickens' presentation of Bounderby? Hard Times is a novel about Victorian society, in particular the divisions in the newly formed industrial society between the upper and lower classes. Dickens' message through the book is that while the ruling classes, characters like Gradgrind and Bounderby, have the money and power, they lack in themselves basic human components - love, compassion, etc. Those who have far harder and more monotonous lives, such as Rachel and Stephen, are in effect far better people, prevented by those above them from making anything better of their lives. Dickens is very clearly on the side of the workers, and throughout Hard Times he develops those characters he sympathises with - Sissy, Rachael, Stephen - into very real personalities, while characters such as Gradgrind and Bounderby are purposefully presented superficially and in a very bad light. This is mainly achieved by his use of satire, and is used on Bounderby more that any other character. Bounderby is first introduced to us as 'Mr Gradgrind's bosom friend, as a man perfectly devoid of sentiment can approach that spiritual relationship towards another man perfectly devoid of sentiment ' Immediately Bounderby's positional fate in the novel has been ...read more.

Middle

And he is hypocritical about all those who presume to know hardship better than he does, even though he himself has never known it, as shown in a conversation with Mrs Sparsit: "A hard bed the pavement of its arcade used to make, I assure you. People like you, ma'am, accustomed from infancy to lie on Down feathers, have no idea how hard a paving-stone is, without trying it." His story of a bolter mother, a drunken and abusive Grandmother, and life on the streets is overturned upon the arrival of his mother, alive and loving, who quickly and firmly dispels what she presumes to be mistaken beliefs on Gradgrind's part, and shows that he is not as self-made as he purports himself to be: "I deserted Josiah! Now, Lord forgive you, sir, for you wicked imaginations... Josiah in the gutter! No such a thing, sir. Never!...a steady lad he was, and a kind master he had to lend him a hand." Bounderby's reluctance to offer any explanation only helps to reinforce our view of him as a liar and hypocrite: "Those who expect any explanation whatever upon that branch of the subject, will be disappointed." Dickens refers to him afterwards as 'that remarkable man and self-made Humbug', and this sums his character up perfectly. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, in many ways this does work to Dickens' advantage. A character like Sissy Jupe or Rachael is far more easily believed, and this helps us to relate far more to them - it is extremely easy to sympathise with Stephen Blackpool's desperate situation, for example, because both he and it are so believable. However, the opposite approach works just as well with Bounderby. He is incredible and unbelievable as a normal person, and therefore he is easily ridiculed and satirized to the point of being a running joke. After only a few pages of Bounderby's ridiculous expostulations we not only cease to take notice of anything he says, and take it all with a large bucketful of salt, but also develop a burning dislike for anyone like him. Due to Dickens' obvious dislike for the type of people that Bounderby portrays, this tactic works very well, and succeeds in making the reader loathe Bounderby as much as he does. This appears to be Dickens' aim in Hard Times - to portray those who are in real hardship and struggle as real people, with real emotions and hopes and fears, who the reader can identify and sympathise with, and to portray those who have power but who do nothing to help as bombastic, ridiculous caricatures, who it seems the world would be a lot better without. ...read more.

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