“On every page Hard Times manifests its identity as a polemical work, a critique of Mid-Victorian
industrial society dominated by materialism, acquisitiveness, and ruthlessly competitive capitalist
economics” (Lodge 86). The quotation above illustrates the basis for Hard Times.
Charles Dickens presents in his novel a specific structure to expose the evils and abuses of the
Victorian Era. Dickens’ use of plot and characterization relate directly to the structure on account
that it shows his view of the mistreatments and evils of the Victorian Era, along with his effort to
expose them through literary methods. A befitting display of structure is evident through his
giving name to the three books contained in Hard Times. The titles of the three appropriately
named books are an allusion to the Bible, and are also “given a further twist in Gradgrind’s
recommendation to ‘Plant nothing else and root out everything else’ (except facts)” (Lodge 91).
In the first book, titled “Sowing, ” we are introduced to those that Dickens creates a firm
character basis with. The opening chapter emphasizes on Thomas Gradgrind Sr., and his students
fittingly referred to as “vessels before him ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them
until they are filled to the brim” (Dickens 12). Gradgrind’s methods of education are employed to
show Dickens’ view on the evil of the educational system. Among the “vessels” are Bitzter and
Sissy Jupe. They exemplify two entirely different ideas, serving Dickens for allegorical purposes.
Bitzer, the model student of Gradgrind’s school of “facts, facts, facts” becomes the very symbol
of evil in the educational system that Dickens is trying to portray, as he learns to take care for
number one, himself. Reflection of this and Bitzer’s informative definition of a horse, as a child in
book one, occurs in book three as he speaks of the necessity of apprehending Tom Gradgrind Jr.
Sissy represents what Dickens is attempting to foster a desire for in the reader, imagination. This
is an aspect that the other children lack or are reprimanded for possessing. Another character
introduced to the reader is Josiah Bounderby, an acknowledged, self-made man. Following him is
Louisa Gradgrind, and her brother Thomas Gradgrind Jr. who are first shown trying to catch a
glimpse of Sleary’s circus, only to be caught by there father. Stephen Blackpool is brought into
the novel to represent the honesty, virtue, and commitment of the working class. “It is clear that
Dickens is speaking through Stephen...” and this sheds light on his idea of what is necessary for
life during those times. As the seeds are “sown” in book one the reader becomes aware of the...