A firm character basis is the foundation upon which any good novel is built. For an allegorical novel, Dickens' has a surprisingly complex character foundation. The characters in Hard Times have both the simplistic characteristics of a character developed for allegorical purposes, as well as the intricate qualities of "real" people. These characters think and feel like we do and react to their situations in the same way that most of us would. These attributes are what give the characters life and allow us to relate to their decisions.
Three characters in Hard Times; James Harthouse, Josiah Bounderby and Stephen Blackpool, exemplify this realistic quality and each is representative of a different social division. These divisions are the upper, middle and lower class. Each class, because of social interaction or absence of the same, creates different dilemmas.
The upper-class, as holds true in real-life, is the smallest of the three categories and, consequently, has its own unique problems. James Harthouse, a characteristic member of the upper-class, comes to Coketown to search for something else to bide his time with. As an aristocratic member of society, one can become stuck in the furrows of life when hours of daily labor is not a part of that person's regimen. Here is an example of some of the extravagant escapades that Harthouse embarks on, yet still finds life tedious:
Now, this gentleman had a younger brother of still better appearance than himself, who had tried life as a Coronet of Dragoons, and found it a bore; and had afterwards tried it in the train of an English minister abroad, and found it a bore; and had then strolled to Jerusalem, and got bored there; and had the...
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...her because he cannot afford to. This adds the emotional complexity of something unattainable to Stephen's character, making him even more believable as a character.
Dickens' characters in Hard Times are more than just caricatures for an allegorical novel on the present state of England. They are real, thinking, breathing, feeling people who are driven by impulse, desire and acceptance. Dickens' use of believable characters makes his novel more realistic and therefore more effective. If Dickens had chosen to write his novel using shallow, "cartoon-like" characters, it would be immediately dismissed as a social commentary and would not be hailed for its novel-like qualities. Only when a literary work is appreciated on many levels can it truly be effective in any one area.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1990
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