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Do you think that the characters in Hard Times have credibility? Are they fully developed or are they merely ciphers representing philosophical ideas?

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Introduction

Do you think that the characters in Hard Times have credibility? Are they fully developed or are they merely ciphers representing philosophical ideas? Hard times was written in 1854 by Charles Dickens. Dickens was a prominent Victorian novelist who wrote about the society that surrounded him. He was educated and middle-class but had some sympathy with the way poor people were treated. He was critical of utilitarianism and felt that those in power showed little understanding of the poor. His sympathy with the poor stemmed from his childhood and his father's inability to stay out of debt. Hard Times is Dickens' shortest novel and is considered by many to be a satire, the story revolves around the hard-headed disciplinarian Mr Thomas Gradgrind. Through the thinking of this character, Dickens examines the utilitarian philosophy of the time and exposes some of the hypocrisy of those in positions of power. The novel is set in the fictional city of Coketown. The city may be based on Dickens' own experiences of Preston where the industries and factories are similar to those of Coketown. ''A town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it.'' In the very first paragraph of the first chapter we are introduced to the principles of Thomas Gradgrind "Now what I want is facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life." These principles not just forced upon the reader from the very start but we are told they are forced upon Gradgrind's children and all the children of the school. ...read more.

Middle

This is because he kept the promise he made to Rachel, did not join the union, and was ostracised from the mill workers. The double standards shown by Bounderby are enormous; it reflects the utilitarianism attitude that Bounderby and Gradgrind share. Blackpool fell out of the majority, the 'greater number' the 'greater good' and so was dismissed from the mill. This part of the story, I believe, is used by Dickens to expose some of the hypocrisy of those in power. He is being critical of the utilitarian philosophy and is using satire to explore the fact that those in power showed little understanding of the difficulties faced by the poor. Bounderby is representing those in power and Blackpool is representing the poor. The book has been split into three sections that are titled 'Sowing', 'Reaping' and 'Garnering'. In the first book, we are introduced to the philosophical ideas and are shown the seeds of utilitarianism, which are being 'sown' into the minds of the children. In the second book we are shown the children that have grown up with the utilitarian ideas, they have no emotion, no passion and base all their decisions on fact and logic. In the denouement of the book, we see the full effect of Dickens use of satire and irony when he reveals the fates of all the characters. Mrs Peglar comes back to town, Mr Gradgrind's only option is to ask Mr Sleary for help and young Tom Gradgrind is forced to leave the country. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens is contrasting utilitarianism with altruistic views in the same way light is the oxymoron of dark at this early stage of the book the light is shining upon the utilitarian philosophy leaving the altruistic Sissy Jupe in the dark. Representing the power of instinct and compassion, Sissy Jupe is immune to the factual regime imposed by Mr Gradgrind, For her, "statistics" are "stutterings." Nevertheless, she has a loving influence upon the Gradgrind household; this allows the human of nature of Louisa Gradgrind to prevail in the denouement of the novel. This complete change in her personality is prompted by the actions of Stephen Blackpool. Blackpool has been connections to the working class north in his surname and his first name has links to martyrdom. He is falsely accused of theft by Blackpool and Louisa Gradgrind is the only person who trusts him. Returning to Coketown in order to clear his name, he fell down a disused mine which is symbolically named 'Old Hell Shaft,' this is another reference by Dickens to the evils of those in positions of power especially in large corporations and industry. Dickens, using certain characters to represent different philosophical beliefs has raised in status the altruistic school of thought. He has also used his exaggerated style, wit and irony to indirectly attack the utilitarian beliefs and the lack of understanding shown by those in positions of power. The characters have not been developed through the book. They are artificial, merely representing philosophical ideas; they are never given any depth or humanity. They appear thin and are merely ciphers in a social tract. The wheel has turned a complete revolution by the end of the book. ...read more.

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