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“In Hard Times exactly the same spiritual failings underlie the problems of industrial society, a mechanistic education system and the inability of men and women to achieve fulfilling relationships.’ Discuss

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Introduction

Lisa Robertshaw Interdisciplinary Human Studies "In Hard Times exactly the same spiritual failings underlie the problems of industrial society, a mechanistic education system and the inability of men and women to achieve fulfilling relationships.' Discuss Charles Dickens (1812-1870), spent his childhood in the rural town of Kent where he was very happy. However, his family met financial problems and his father was sent to debtor's prison. Young Charles (aged 12), was withdrawn from school and sent to work in a blackening factory for three years. This traumatic experience had a profound effect, and provided him with insight of working class conditions, for when he later became a novelist Dickens started to write Hard Times in 1854, by which time cities had been increasing in size, due predominantly, to growth in the textile, iron and railway industry. Previously working country folk had lived almost along side their employers and had struck up a relationship with them albeit an unequal one. However, in the large sprawling cities there became a large, psychological, as well as physical gap between 'masters' and 'men'. Dickens believed that part of the problem of industrialised cities, was due to the way children were educated. They were only taught factual information and not encouraged to think and evaluate. Gradgrind's school children learn nothing but Facts, and he quells the first signs of creativity. This imagination or 'Fancy' is represented in Hard Times by the circus from where Sissy Jupe originates. ...read more.

Middle

Thou'rt an Angel; it may be, thou hast saved my soul alive!" Stephen seeks advice from Bounderby but his dreams are thwarted instantly, as he discovers only the very rich are able to obtain a divorce, and their love remains unrequited. This is an example of the moral and financial pressures which where imposed upon the relationships between men and women. Stephen and Rachel's situation echoes Dickens' own unhappy marriage, and it is speculated that he was having an affair with a young actress while writing Hard Times. (Slater pg. 135) Victorian society was very moralistic, however there seems to be no moral questions asked, when women were prostituted into a loveless marriage, for money or other favours. Louisa shows her contempt for Bounderby ( her future husband), when he demands a kiss from her as he leaves. "she stood on the same spot rubbing the cheek he had kissed, with her handkerchief, until it was burning red.. "You'll rub a hole in your face" her brother sulkily remonstrated.."You may cut the piece out with your penknife, if you like, Tom. I wouldn't cry!" However despite her hatred of Bounderby, she sacrifes herself to his offer of marriage in order to gain advantages for her brother and to please her father who is his friend. Dickens felt that the way in which the rationalised education structure, emotionally stunted people, was a component in the unsuccessful relationships between Victorian men and women. ...read more.

Conclusion

He and Marx believe that joining a Union, in order to fight together for their cause, is the only way out of their subordinate position. In conclusion Hard Times is not Dickens's most subtle novel. Most of its moral themes are very explicitly articulated through extremely sharp characterisation and the narrator's frequent interjection of his own opinions and experiences. Dickens was extremely concerned with the miserable lives of the poor and working classes in the England of his day, and Hard Times engages these social problems directly. What emerges from the book is a very simple contrast between Mr Gradgrind's philosophy of Fact, which includes pervasive rationalism and the idea that people should only act according to their best interest, and the simple loving honesty of Sissy Jupe, who contradicts Gradgrind's insistence on Fact by frequently indulging in romantic, imaginative Fancy. The philosophy of fact is shown to be at the heart of the problems of the poor; the smoke stacks, factory machines, and clouds of black smog are all associated with Fact, while Fancy is held up to be the route to charity and love between men and women. In reality this contrast is oversimplified; clearly a commitment to factual accuracy does not lead directly to selfishness, and a commitment to imagination does not equal a commitment to social equality. However, these contrasting ideas serve as a kind of shorthand for Dickens to enlighten his readers to the states of mind that enable certain kinds of action. ...read more.

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