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Charles Dickens: Hard Times Essay

3038 words - 12 pages

Charles Dickens: Hard Times

Hard Times is a powerful use of satire. The satire is aimed at the
Victorian school system and some values of the Victorian period. The
novel presents us a fictional town called ‘Coketown’. It introduces us
to a man called Thomas Gradgrind, a satirical character with the basis
of a Victorian school master. Dickens wrote this novel to attack the
Victorian school system because he did not believe that it was right.
He uses satire a great deal in the novel to emphasise how it does not
work and why it should change. The satire is directed ‘The Gradgrind
Philosophy’, Thomas Gradgrind’s belief system.

Gradgrind greatly believes in his ‘philosophy’ even saying ‘‘this is
the principle on which I bring up my own children’’ emphasising his
believes in it. The Gradgrind philosophy is shown to be authoritarian,
bullying and fanatical. He puts forwards these beliefs in an utterly
rigid upfront and violent way. This philosophy reduces the children to
products, practically de-humanising them. It destroys the

children’s imaginations, their innocence and their individuality. The
system is only interested in measuring and is an exaggerated version
on utilitarianism. Utilitarianism originated with the economist Adam
Smith and then Jeremy Bentham built on it. Dickens attacks this
because he believes that individuality and emotions are deeply
important.

Dickens presents us with the character Thomas Gradgrind in this novel.
We are given a very vivid description of him and Dickens uses a number
of devices to do this. His first device is the name ‘Gradgrind’. If
the name is split up you get ‘Grad’ and ‘grind’. The ‘Grad’ part
refers to a graduate of the fact system or a grade, evaluation or
judgement. The ‘grind’ part refers to grinding teeth, a grinder. This
process is associated with inanimate objects, the way in which the
school dehumanises the children. The ‘grind’ part of the name is also
related to how the children are being ground down to just stores of
facts and they are being ground down losing all emotion. We are given
a very vivid description of Thomas Gradgrind himself. The first bit of
description is ‘‘eyebrows for its base’’, which emphasises the size of
his forehead and also that it is a concrete base. Then it refers to
‘‘the speaker’s square forefinger’’; this shows that the schoolmaster
runs under things on a board, showing that he emphasises everything
and all the facts. Then it talks about ‘‘speaker’s square coat’’; this
shows us that he is a very rigid man, he has a very straight back and
a very rigid torso. Again the repetition of square emphasises his
rigid and firm beliefs. He is set on his ways like the facts he
believes in.

Again Dickens refers to his posture by saying that his ‘‘neck cloth
seems to be trained to take him by the throat’’;...

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