The Industrial Revolution is the period marking the introduction of mass production, improved transportation, technical progress and the industrial factory system. Industrialisation changed people’s lives because Britain progressed from just a centre of “worldwide commerce” to embrace a “centre of manufacturing industry”, the increase in the mechanism of the textile industry and the utilisation of steam power meant that employment was to be found in central locations. Dickens wrote “Hard Times” in 1854, when the Industrial Revolution was active.
This influenced the way the book was written. It was a representation of his time. Times were hard for children and adults alike. The working class and the poor both struggled; giving the book its title “Hard Times”. Originally the book was published as short stories in a magazine, and each chapter ended on a cliff hanger, encouraging people to purchase the magazine and read on. The chapters were eventually made into three books, named Sowing, Reaping and Garnering. This refers to the child-plant metaphor and children require specific things such as love, food and warmth to prosper.
Eventually. The people who were treated badly were the ones who helped those in need. Not only is Hard Times a work of fiction, it was meant to be a satire, a parody of ideas and ways of thinking at the time. In most respects, it wasn’t meant to accurately describe the way things were. Dickens covers up his parody with a realistic and extremely accurate depiction of a typical industrial town. Coketown is described as the very picture of conformity, with all the buildings looking like one another.
“It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage”. The first character we hear about in chapter two is Thomas Gradgrind, a man built on the idea that facts and statistics were the only truth in life and all that was needed to have a healthy and productive life. The only truth to him was his very own vision of the truth. Simply put, Thomas Gradgrind strived for perfection.
He strived to be perfect, which is what his philosophy was based on, and he strived to make his children perfect and not to enquire, meaning they would not have to show emotion or question situations that could arise later in their lives. He raised his children never to wonder, never to doubt facts and to never entertain any vice or fancy. As soon as Gradgrind’s children were old enough to absorb, he was giving more lessons than they could hold. His children were brought up only knowing one way to live and that was the idea that if it not a fact, then it is false.
He was emotionless as were his children because they were brought up only knowing what they were taught by him. In the second chapter, Dickens describes Gradgrind as being a “cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts” showing and emphasising the amount of knowledge he possessed. “He seemed a galvanising apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away. ” This tells us that any opinion or imagination the children had within them was soon to be destroyed.
Gradgrind was “ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature and tell you exactly what it comes to. This then suggests that if ability can be weighed and measured, then children should not have been taught equally. In chapter two, Dickens makes his view on education clear to the reader, that he doesn’t approve, and creates this impression in several ways. He describes the speak as being “inflexible and dry” and adds humour to the chapter by making remarks about the speakers hair, as being “bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining forehead”.
This metaphor really allows us to picture the character in our mind [and allows us to laugh at him which reduces his importance. ] Dickens writing satirises people of authority and shows he was very critical of the education system during the Industrial Revolution. Dickens uses three characters in chapter three to outline how facts and Utilitarianism were important and that nothing else mattered. He describes Thomas Gradgrind, the city councillor and Mr M’Choakumchild, as being machines all operated to do the same thing and is to deliver facts.
The word “facts” is repeated on many occasions throughout the books, emphasising how important people were, and how they did not rely on their imagination. Dickens tells us that Thomas Gradgrind was ready to destroy any opinion the children of Coketown may have by saying he would “blow them clean out of the regions of childhood”. This makes me think that no matter what it would take, Gradgrind would have his way and that children would only learn what they needed to work in industry, and that no other skills were important.
I personally believe that If we as children were not allowed to express our personal views on the world today, the education may not have changed. The city councillor appears to have the attitude of a boxer, and I get the impression he was a powerful man. This is emphasised by the caricature that Dickens has used, “He was certain to knock the wind out of common sense”. A quote like this tells us that that if children did not think the same as authority, they would be forced to. The final adult we hear about is the school teacher, Mr M’Choakumchild.
We almost become involved with his life, when Dickens informs us on all of the man’s achievements and qualifications, and how “if he had learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more”. This use of irony, basically explains that the children were pushed and force-fed and how sometimes teaching less at a slower pace could have made an impact on their futures. Overall, the educators saw children as empty vessels just waiting to be filled with information. They did not consider, however, the children’s need for fiction, poetry and other fine arts that are used to expand a child’s mind.
, all of which are essential today in order to produce well-rounded human beings through the educational process. A perfect example of a product of utilitarian education, Bitzer defines a horse off the top of his head in a split second. “Quadruped. Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in spring…” Utilitarianism is the assumption that human beings act in a way that highlights their own self interest. It is based on factuality and leaves little room for imagination.
The only other child that Dickens informs us of in the first few chapters is Cecilia Jupe, also know as Sissy; a new girl to Gradgrind’s school who was unlike any other pupil. The clear contrast between her and Bitzer are not only shown in their definition of a horse, but also in their physical appearance, personality, background and the philosophies that they each represent. Fact and fancy. From the very beginning of this chapter “Murdering The Innocents”, Dickens makes it clear to the reader that Bitzer represents fact and Sissy, fancy.
He uses the two characters to portray the differences between this. One way is using their physical appearance to reflect their personality. Sissy is described as vibrant and full of dark, rich colours. She always glows with passion and kindness. Bitzer on the other hand, is described as a very pale boy. He seems cold and motionless, with light coloured eyes and hair. This effect allows us to believe that all matters of life have been blown out of Bitzer and that Sissy still has all the characteristics that make her human.
Sissy refers to Gradgrind throughout chapter two as “sir” which shows her respect for authority even though she regularly expresses her personal opinion on any given situation. This shows a growing confidence in her as a person. I know that at the end of the book Gradgrind realises that he was wrong about education. I think this helps me feel better as a person after being drawn into the book by every twist and turn, making me feel like one of the children in the school. In conclusion, Dickens has acknowledged the life he grew up with and how damaging its effect could be.