Hard Times, By Charles Dickens Essay

1450 words - 6 pages

The characters of Charles Dickens’ fictional english city, Coketown, mirror the relationships and cross-class understandings of class in mid-nineteenth-century England. The influence of both enlightenment and romantic tendencies are evidently portrayed in the Upper and Lower classes of Coketown, and speak to the respective understandings of the characters view of society being relative to their own station within society. Coketown’s social identity is revealed through the restrictions and advantages of the different levels of society and how they contribute to the relationships and understandings between upper and lower classes.
The upper level of society, although bearing power and influence, experiences several forms of restriction relevant to it position within the social hierarchy. Falling prey to the stifling tendencies of obligation and expectation its participants present an inability to relate to issues concerning the lower class. The cause of disconnect between social circles stems from an overall absence of common understanding. The world occupied by Mr. Grandgrind is one of mathematics and “fact”. A man associated with the mass production of square children of fact and his own “square” and “inflexible” nature, Grandgrind is disadvantaged by his failure to see past his own doctrine. He lives in a cold and overly symmetrical home, Stonelodge, with a doormat of a wife and children possessing “an air of jaded sullenness” having been single-mindedly educated in his unbalanced curriculum, void of creativity and life (p.17). There are many shortcomings in an all “fact” education, manifested in the over-obedient and confused existence of his daughter Louisa and the haphazard lifestyle of his son Tom. Tom is detrimentally drawn to gambling, seeking excitement, despite his rational knowledge of the poor odds associated. Despite his sister’s ardent affection and financial contributions to his gambling debts Tom is unable to overcome his addiction. Throughout the text Louisa is connected with imagery of fire and ashes representing the fire of imagination natural to her person turning to ashes as a product of the lifestyle in which she was raised, “through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow” (p.17). By “murdering their innocent nature” Grandgrind feeds into the disillusionment between classes through the miss education of his children encouraging an ignorance and alien view of the inner workings and daily experiences of the lower class; thereby making foreign the existence of the relationship between the two (p.8). Furthermore by robbing his children’s’ lives of fancy and delight he intern removes the possibility of escape from the harsh realities in a manufacturing centered culture. The industrial driven estrangement of classes is demonstrated by the character Mr. Bounderby, the man defined by his position as the mass...

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