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Utilitarianism In Dickens' "Hard Times" Essay

1387 words - 6 pages

‘Hard Times’ is a wonderful story, but when one thinks about the reality that lies behind the work, the novel becomes a masterpiece. This novel becomes very important because utilitarianism was the main thought in Victorian era. Utilitarianism, “the forms of liberty and equality that will produce the greatest happiness depend on the state of the educational, political, economic, and social structure” (Harris). Everything is explained by logic and facts. It is easy for the reader to find out that Dickens teases this theory, but the exciting thing is how he does it through the characters. “Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out nothing else” (Dickens 9). These are the words spoken to the children in the classroom. Also, this is the first sentences in the novel, so the audience is directly put into an effective way of thinking and leading them to the time period it was written. The readers get most of the impressions, emotions, and their own ideas and opinions about the subject through the characters. Charles Dickens injected the characters with his own ideologies that make the characters more than just a character in the story.
Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby are the main characters that relates with utilitarianism. They both speak only facts which lead the life of others by their opinions. And these facts are taught to the children from their childhood, so to speak. Mr. Gradgrind’s daughter, Louisa is a good example. She is the character who obeys her dad and follows the fact system. The one scene which tells the reader very clearly of this system is when Mr. Gradgrind brings up the marriage proposal from Mr. Bounderby. This cold, unloving proposal and Louisa response shows that she has lost her humanity and has became a disciple of the factual system. One can almost hear Tina Turner singing “What’s love got to do, with it” in the background. Marriage is an important event in one’s life. Only the facts are important in every single situation, and the fact was that Louisa had received a marriage proposal from Mr. Bounderby. She is in between both the world of facts and the world of fancy. Louisa has realized that her father's training has denied her a life of any “aspirations and affections” (Stiltner) but one reason for claiming this is the fact that she was a grown woman before she was able to stand up to it, so it may have been too late for her to leave everything ever taught to her completely behind. Even at the end of the novel, she could see things happening to other people around her, but for herself she could not imagine anything good happening.
Mr. Gradgrind is a pragmatic character, who is “a man of realities, a man of facts and calculations” (Princeton’s Gradgrind). He uses utilitarianism in his daily life such as the way that he raises his kids, the way he talks about Sissy’s ‘education’, the talking with Louisa about the...

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