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Comment on the way in which Dickens presents the characters of Gradgrind, Sissy and Bitzer in Chs. 1 and 2.

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Introduction

Teresa Morris AS English - "Hard Times" by Dickens VI Form College 3.10.2002 1. Comment on the way in which Dickens presents the characters of Gradgrind, Sissy and Bitzer in Chs. 1 and 2. "Now, what I want is, Facts." With these opening words to "Hard Times", spoken by Thomas Gradgrind, Dickens declaims Gradgrind's values in life. Gradgrind's gives his instructions to the class teacher in unequivocal terms, using repetition of the word "Facts" several times to emphasise his narrow vision of the purpose of education and he closes with the words "Stick to Facts, sir!" Through his subsequent description of the classroom and of Gradgrind's physical appearance Dickens subtly gives us an idea of his very personality. The description of the room as "a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom" parallels the inflexibility and solidity of both Gradgrind's personality and his physical appearance. He even outlines his appearance in architectural terms, talking of his "square wall of a forehead" and by repetition of the adjective "square", as in "square forefinger", "square coat, square legs, square shoulders", we are given a vision of unrelenting straightness, monotony and solidity. All this is achieved in a forthright, good-natured manner (like Gradgrind himself), through the use of irony and an exaggerated, satirical humour, which entices the reader into colluding with the writer in his mockery of Gradgrind. In Chapter II he develops this theme through the use of metaphors such as "ready to weigh any parcel of human nature", ...read more.

Middle

The house itself is appropriately called "Stone Lodge" and the theme of "plain, bare and monotonous" from Chapter II is continued with expressions such as "a great square house", "all ruled straight". Comparisons are made between the house and Grandgrind's dark appearance and the use of metaphor continues when Dickens talks of "bits of stone and ore" (two hard substances in themselves) in the children's metallurgical cabinets being "broken from the parent substances". Our initial impression of Tom and Louisa is that the hard, factual upbringing they have experienced has not succeeded in totally crushing their natural childish spirit. Dickens chooses to introduce them to us as they surreptitiously dare to grab a glimpse of a circus through a hole in the circus tent - something any normal child might do. He uses this incident to show that despite Gradgrind's best efforts at raising them to value facts alone, they have retained a natural childish curiosity and enjoyment of life. The circus people are described in jovial, jolly and mock high-flown language, giving a feeling of showmanship, exaggeration, excitement and fun - all things which would be thoroughly disapproved of by Gradgrind and have been denied the children. Dickens shows us that although Louisa and Tom have been repressed and behave dutifully, they still have normal, natural feelings. Louisa is even allowed to express a little of her resentment and rebellion in her reply to her father's remonstrations when caught watching the circus. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens professes ironic amusement at their simplicity and sentimentality whilst collusively encouraging the reader to join with him in valuing these humanitarian precepts. 4. What have you learned about Mr Bounderby in Chs. 4 and 5? From his initial appearance Dickens shows us that Mr Bounderby is somewhat like Mr Gradgrind; he first appears (namelessly) at Gradgrind's side in the schoolroom. Later, when the children are discovered peeping through the circus tent, Gradgrind admonishes "What would Mr Bounderby say" several times to emphasise the impression that Bounderby is disapproving, self-righteous and opinionated yet holds a position of social power. Dickens tells us that he is "a rich man, a banker, merchant, manufacturer and what not" and by this last expression ("and what not") mocks the pompousness of these occupations. He uses irony in "inflated like a balloon" and "Bully of humility" to reduce Bounderby to nothing of any value. The words given to Bounderby are always simultaneously self-deprecating and yet self-congratulatory as he continually reminds us of his humble beginnings, beginnings that Dickens allows him to exaggerate beyond any possibility of belief. The adjectives applied to Bounderby are even more cold and hard than those used to describe Gradgrind and we are left with an impression of complete heartlessness. Thus, through the devices of irony, exaggeration, metaphor and emotive, derogatory adjectives we understand that Bounderby is a bounder in every sense; dishonest, self-interested pompous, self-absorbed and not to be trusted. Above all he believes, as does Gradgrind, in the sole value of facts and lacks any natural human feelings. ...read more.

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