Charleston Dickens, Hard Times Contrasting Philosophies Of Mr. Sleary And Mr. Gradgrind

1093 words - 4 pages

A Magnetic Attraction:Contrasting Philosophies of Mr. Sleary and Mr. GradgrindAlthough a positive charge and a negative charge are polar opposites, when they are placed in close proximity to each other a strong energy is created forcing the two charges to form a solid bond. This proven scientific theory which society has applied to everyday life leads to the saying that opposites attract. Opposing cultures, tastes and opinions can actually benefit a relationship by introducing each person to a whole new perspective. Contrasting personalities is a positive situation; nobody wants to date themselves, after all. It is most commonly said that relationships flourish when a couple displays varying opinions and lifestyles. This divergence allows for positive variance, which removes the monotony in an ordinary situation and adds a sense of connection. In order to create a structured, well-balanced novel, Charles Dickens provides characters who encompass widely varying ideals; however, this discontinuity results in an energetic and strong story. Perhaps the most dissimilar characters in Dickens's Hard Times are Thomas Gradgrind and Mr. Sleary. Thomas Gradgrind thinks of himself as an "eminently practical" man and believes that only fact and figure are important (12). In contrast, Mr Sleary believes life should not be all work and no play. As a result, the characters learn and grow from one another. These divergent philosophies complement each other, balancing out the novel while stimulating the reader's interest.Dickens opens the novel by describing the physical appearance and demeanor of Thomas Gradgrind. He repeatedly refers to Mr. Gradgrind's features as square, insinuating that everything about him is straight forward. Dickens's writes, "...and the speaker's square forefinger...square wall of a forehead...square coat, square legs, square shoulders" (5). This uptight and clear-cut description lends to Mr. Gradrind's similarly precise philosophy on life. The reader can clearly see his lack of emotion and passion.The only thing Gradgrind is passionate about is facts. Mr. Gradgrind states, "In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!" (5). He imposes his strict beliefs upon his children, discouraging wonder and curiosity. When Mr. Gradgrind finds his children peaking in on the fantasy world of Mr. Sleary's circus, he immediately reprimands them saying, "Thomas and you, who have been trained to mathematical exactness....in this degraded position, I am amazed" (14). Another instance of Mr. Gradgrind's intransigence is when his daughter Lousia says, "Tom, I wonder" (41). Immediately, Mr. Gradgrind replies, "Louisa, never wonder"(41). The way Dickens portrays Mr. Gradgrind character, indirectly portrays his views of upper-class society and utilitarian philosophers. Through his words, the reader sees how Dickens disapproves of overly practical individuals. He shows that without wonder, one becomes a heartless person without the ability to...

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