The Importance of Sleary's Circus People in Hard Times
In Charles Dickens' novel "Hard Times", an alternative view of the Gradgrind-Bounderby way of life is presented by Sleary's circus people.
Sleary's people are shown by Dickens as leading lives which go against everything which Gradgrind represents and as such they are at first a kind of abomination to him. They are shown as people with a life of freedom, not constrained by the rigid set laws and hard facts which Gradgrind's philosophy is based upon. Not only just the physical freedom to roam the countryside almost at will, where Gradgrind is tied to Coketown. But also a mental freedom to enjoy life to the full with all it's spontaneity, unconditional emotions, imagination, failings, shortcomings and passions. Something which Gradgrind is shown not being able to comprehend until late on in the book. You get the feeling that their life on this world is to give pleasure to others at sometimes great risk to themselves "a pretty fair haired girl.......made a will at twelve" 1 , in a place where the "Hands" can escape into their world away from the mill for a short time at one of their performances.
Dickens carries out this by using certain literary tools in a very clever, witty and sometimes amusing manner. One of the main tools he uses is the subtle and sometimes not so subtle method of the comparison of objects and characters with their physical and literary opposites. An example being the horse. When we look at Gradgrind's definition of a horse given to us early on in the book "Quadruped. Ggraminivorous, forty teeth namely grinders.......with iron."2 ,a strict and non compromising definition. We then find the circus people lodging in an inn, aptly named "Pegasus' Arms". Pegasus is a horse which could not get further from Gradgrind's definition if it tried. For it being a mythological creature and as such the product of the imagination. A creature in Gradgrind's world such as this should not and must not come to light. To hammer the point home there is a pantomime Pegasus in a glass case hanging on the wall behind the...