Charles Dickens ' Hard Times Essay

Charles Dickens ' Hard Times Essay

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Charles Dickens’ Hard Times portrays Gradgrind in an intriguing way. He works his way up in life, starting as a hardware trader, later starting a school and eventually becoming a member of Parliament. He is strict in forcing facts and figures on his family and his students because he wants them to succeed; his flaw with this is that his philosophy seemed to work for him, but in reality it doesn’t work for anyone (including him). This connects and contrasts with two characters in the story, Josiah Bounderby, the owner of the local factory, who is successful through lying and poor treatment of others, as well as James Harthouse, who causes damage in people’s lives just out of boredom. Despite how Gradgrind is a driving force in the symmetrically distanced starting and ending chapters, for a period of time he takes the back seat in the story. However, he undergoes a change throughout the course of this tale. This change is in his view of himself and his behavior, and it is important because of how it demonstrates the futility of utilitarianism in this society.
Gradgrind’s change is multifaceted, appearing in both his view of himself as a practical person and through his behavior. This behavior goes from forcing facts to accepting creativity as well. The change is important for seeing how Gradgrind represents the utilitarian society, as well as seeing the effects Gradgrind’s fact-based philosophy has on himself and his society. Gradgrind was always compassionate, despite the way he viewed himself. It was out of compassion that he started his school, even though it didn’t turn out as positively as he had hoped. It was also out of compassion that he took in Sissy Jupe, despite the fact that the reason he went to visit Sissy was to kick ...


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...o the possible chance that the children could end up like the hands (Bounderby’s factory employees) or circus workers. Jane Gradgrind seems to be balanced on creativity and strict fact though, due to opportunity for both (through Sissy and Gradgrind’s change). This is good because the mindset does harm people and the society as a whole.
The harm and futility of the utilitarian philosophy is shown on multiple levels throughout Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. Examples of this include the damage that Gradgrind did to his students and children despite having only the best of intentions for them. There’s also the fact that Josiah Bounderby successful method of profiting from lying and making his employees miserable does less harm despite being more selfish. This contrast between good intent vs a good outcome demonstrates Dickens’ views on the negativity of utilitarianism.

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