Utilitarianism "Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in spring......" A perfect example of a product of utilitarian education, Bitzer defines a horse off the top of his head in a split second. Utilitarianism is the assumption that human beings act in a way that highlights their own self interest. It is based on factuality and leaves little room for imagination. Dickens provides three vivid examples of this utilitarian logic in Hard Times.
The first; Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, one of the main characters in the book, was the principal of a school in Coketown. He was a firm believer in utilitarianism and instilled this philosophy into the students at the school from a very young age, as well as his own children. Mr. Josiah Bounderby was also a practitioner of utilitarianism, but was more interested in the profit that stemmed from it. At the other end of the perspective, a group of circus members, who are the total opposite of utilitarians, are added by Dickens to provide a sharp contrast from the ideas of Mr. Bounderby and Mr. Gradgrind.
Thomas Gradgrind Sr., a father of five children, has lived his life by the book and never strayed from his philosophy that life is nothing more than facts and statistics. He has successfully incorporated this belief into the school system of Coketown, and has tried his best to do so with his own children. The educators see children as easy targets just waiting to be filled with information. They did not consider, however, the children’s need for fiction, poetry, and other fine arts that are used to expand children’s minds, all of which are essential today in order to produce well-...
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... imagination; which is the way life ought to be lived. Dickens obviously had a definitive opinion of the way life should be lived and did an excellent job of depicting it. His method was somewhat indirect in the sense that he worked backwards to get his point across, but turned out to be very effective as the story progressed.
Most of the story revolved around utilitarianism and the study of cold hard facts, but when the character flaws began to surface as a result of this philosophy, Dickens is quick to emphasize them. One actually sees the main character of the book and firm supporter of utilitarianism, Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, experience the faults of his practice and begin to stray from it. Now, after watching his life fall apart, maybe he wishes he were in the circus.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: WW Norton & Company, Inc. 1990.
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