Charles Dickens' Hard Times
The book "Hard Times" was written in 1854. It was written in weekly
instalments in a magazine called Household Words. This is like a
normal soap but was weekly. The magazine was owned by Charles Dickens
as he was a journalist. The book was written at the time of the
Industrial Revolution. This was when factories were being built near
major towns and cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.
The Industrial Revolution was a time when there were big improvements
in transport as there was vast expansion in the production of iron.
The factories were in the towns so people from the countryside came to
the towns for work and a house. They moved because their own mills
weren't making enough items of clothing etc whereas the factories
could mass produce. However, there weren't enough houses so many were
hastily built. This meant they had no fresh water, no sewers and no
toilets. This led to a poor quality of living where people got water
from communal water pipes and put their waste in a big "pile" which
was cleaned by a "waste disposal man". The poor quality of living was
added to by the huge smoke clouds which hung over the cities. This
"smog" made it hard to breathe and was so bad seeing things became
The book starts when Dickens introduces the characters; the first two
chapters are short yet are scene-setters. Dickens explains that;
Mr Gradgrind - a politician and schools owner,
Mr McChoakumchild - a new teacher and
Another man - we are not told who the man is or why he is present, are
in a classroom full of children. Dickens describes Mr Gradgrind as
being a square man and Mr McChoakumchild as a school teacher who was
fresh for the factory which "makes teachers". This is because he has
the same teaching methods as all of the other teachers of the period.
We find out later on that this is because he will have been taught by
a "Gradgrind" type of system, which teaches only facts and no "Fancy".
McChoakumchild has been taught to teach only facts and to keep
teaching facts until the children cannot take any more facts. The aim
of "Gradgrind" type systems are to tell the children "all they need to
know" and nothing which is of any unimportance. Dickens also describes
the classroom, he says it is a;
"A bare, monotonous, vault of a classroom"
This gives us the impression of a prison cell which sounds like no
type of place to bring up children for seven hours a day and
thirty-five hours a week. When we look back and compare this "prison
cell" to our modern classrooms there is an obvious difference. The
modern classrooms have interesting features such as colour, posters
etc. This seems like a much better place to bring up children. Dickens
then describes the children as being;
"Little vessels. Ready to have imperial gallons of facts
poured into them until they were full to the brim."
This gives us an impression of jugs; ready to be filled with...