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Heightened Representations of Reality in Dickens' Hard Times.

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Introduction

Jelena Lazic Professor Mathews April 9, 2002 Heightened Representations of Reality in Dickens' Hard Times Dickens's novel Hard Times, tells a story of fact versus fancy. Set amid the Industrial smokestacks and factories of Coketown, the novel uses its characters and stories to expose the vast gap between rich and poor and to criticize what Dickens perceived as the "unfeeling rationalism" of the middle and upper classes. Therefore, the author turns towards social issues, criticizes utilitarianism and thus responds to the changing world of 1850s industrial Europe. Lastly, Dickens utilizes the "rhetoric of fiction" in order to structure the representations of reality. He heightens these representations through the use of literary techniques, such as imagery, diction and narration, all strongly related to the representation of imaginative, almost caricature- like characters. Dickens utilizes the third-person point-of-view in and is selectively omniscient. To better bring a point across in the reader's mind, Dickens will on occasion enter the thoughts of a character. This gives him much more direct control over the reader's interpretation of the story and how the reader is to feel about each character. An example of this can be found on p. 21 in reference to Bounderby: "...his windy boastfulness." Dickens' dislike for Bounderby, the "self-made man" who truly wasn't a self-made man is always apparent. Bounderby's words reflect upon the hypocrisy of the man, such as in references to the circus folk and Sissy's father as when he comments, "Serve 'em right, for being idle." ...read more.

Middle

almost complete absence of color, "so light-eyed and light-haired that the selfsame rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed." Moreover his eyes are described as cold, his skin as, "unwholesomely deficient". Thus, there is a sense of sickness and deficiency to the boy that perhaps is used to reflect the deficiency of his fact-controlled character and to foreshadow the lack of personality later in the story. The use of imagery brings life to characters, causing the reader to either emphasize or despise the character based merely upon physical description. Also, through the abovementioned descriptions, there is an example of Dickens' use of contrast- the color of Sissy to the lack-thereof in Bitzer, which when relating to the themes of the novel can signify the contrast of fancy and cold fact. In Dickens' descriptions of McChokumchild's hands, there is again this use of imagery: "...at the ends of his ten chilled fingers" (17). Perhaps most vivid imagery is in the depiction of Bounderby and his, "metallic laugh", "coarse material", "a great puffed head", "swelled veins in his temples", "strained skin" that seemed to "hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up", "ready to start" (21).The choice of diction and images here prevail with unnatural, harsh descriptions that could well correspond to a description of a factory machine. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lastly, the town factories are clear instances of fact versus fancy and the "titanic shadows," the serpents and the threatening words of the drunken woman complete the symbolism of looming danger. The contrast to fancy and imagination comes with the lingering cold, despite the fire that Luisa constantly observes. The fire can be a symbol of the fireside, of familial warmth and love between siblings but as the story progresses it becomes apparent that this warmth is largely hindered. In a metaphorical sense, the Gradgrinds' family life can be described as very cold and lacking in emotion. The parents neither hate nor dislike their children, but they are emotionally cold, indifferent and distant. In opposition to emotion and "wonder" they prefer science. There is almost a "mechanical" imagery in the way that Louisa and Tom describe their emotions (as a coiled "spring" for example) and in the lack of freedom and repression of emotions. Also, Dickens describes the gardens of the Gradgrind home "like a botanical account-book"(17) and this continues the underlying contrast between the statistical, perfect order and the freedom that nature should represent. The children's "dissection" of the "Great Bear" constellation can perhaps be seen as a metaphor for the elimination of fancy. And also, the images of vagabonds and circuses can be interpreted as the paths towards idleness, and thus poverty. The focus on money and industry also produces a motif of metals and minerals. ...read more.

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