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Irony In Hard Times

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Show how Dickens uses irony to satirise In the novel, Hard Times, Dickens uses irony to satirise the Victorian society. To be more precise, he mainly satirises cities' ongoing industrialism, the nature of humans as well as other things. Dickens uses the technique to ridicule, or to condemn, things he finds ridiculous or bad. In the first chapter, The One Thing Needful, Dickens portrays Thomas Grandgrind's character clearly to the reader. "Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts..." (Sowing, Chapter I) This quotation clearly shows that, in the novel, Gradgrind's initial concept of education is to feed the children facts. The extract, "Plant nothing else, and root out everything else." exposes to the reader that Gradgrind feels children, like machines, should be supplied what it is needed i.e. facts, and nothing else (fancy or imagination). It is as though Gradgrind is treating the children like machines. Here, Dickens satirises the education system in which Victorian children went through. He, personally, agrees that facts are an important part of life but not the only one. ...read more.


(Sowing, Chapter XV) This quotation portrays Dickens' intentional irony. The latter part of the quotation, "considering how to go on." shows how Gradgrind has no sense of direction. His repetition of actions ("He took a paper-knife in his hand, turned it over, laid it down, took it up again...") indicate, or would do in most people, a loss of direction or boredom. The irony used to satirise is effective because Gradgrind was, previously, not a man who lacked direction and confidence. On the contrary, Gradgrind was a man full of self-belief and felt that everything he did is correct. Here, the irony used to satirise Gradgrind's nature works because Dickens has shown the change of personality of someone who is initially a utilitarian and not the personality of someone who has always lacked self-confidence. Alternatively, Dickens - in the form of a self-conscious narrator - could just explicitly state, "Gradgrind is no longer the man he originally was, he has no self-confidence or direction," instead of applying irony. However, the quotation above could be interpreted differently; "...considering how to go on." could suggest that Gradgrind, as an industrialist, is carefully planning what to do or say next to persuade his daughter to accept what he may well see as a 'business proposal'. ...read more.


The irony here works by using a positive adjective to describe a negative person (Mrs. Sparsit). To satirise the nature of Mrs. Sparsit, Dickens does not have to use irony. Instead he can use descriptive words which are not ironic. In this case, he could have used words such as scheming, spying to describe her. He could also have substituted the word "woman" to something worse and direct like "spy" or perhaps "shadow" to emphasise that Mrs. Sparsit is always on Louisa and Harthouse's tails. Alternatively, Dickens may be being serious when describing Mrs Sparsit as "amiable"; morally it can be argued that she is actually being amiable because she is loyal to her former master. She is loyal because she is still working for Bounderby in the sense that she is doing things he cannot do and in this context, it is spying upon Louisa and his guest. From all the evidence provided, it is apparent that, in the novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens uses irony to satirise industrialism and human nature as well as many other things within the Victorian times that he finds ridiculous or bad. All of the irony is effective because it has shown us the things that Dickens wants to satirise and the irony makes us want to satires those things too. Vinson Yeung 10W English Coursework ...read more.

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