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Dickens Presents Mr Gradgrind Hard Times English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 852 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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During the course of ‘Hard Times’, Charles Dickens defines Utilitarianism as a way of life and as a view on anything through the thriving Victorian industrial industry dominating Coketown in the 1850’s. Dickens takes Tom Gradgrind as his main example, starting as a deeply Utilitarian school teacher and through the course of the novel, takes him full circle until he regrets his Utilitarian view of life and way of doing things. ‘Hard Times’ also highlights the standard of working conditions in and around the industrial industry.

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Right from the start of the novel, Mr Gradgrind is presented as strict, as the first words he speaks, indeed the first couple of sentences in chapter one are “Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts”. Both ‘Facts’ are written with a capital ‘F’, emphasizing the importance of facts. All he wants is facts facts facts and that’s all he thinks the education system is for. He believes so strongly in Utilitarianism, this all encumbering work ethic, he’s made it his philosophy for life and therefore thinks it is completely reasonable for everyone else to adopt his way of life.

At the start of the 1st book, Mr Gradgrind is presented as; “a man of facts and calculations”. This shows how his style of efficiency really backs Gradgrind’s belief that; everything, no matter what can be ordered, recorded and measured. This constant belief that everything and anything can be categorized in order of how efficient it is, how useful it is, and how sensible it is is foundation mindset throughout the majority of the story. On the other hand, while chapter one pretty much lets the whole world know that Gradgrind is a grumpy old man from the dark ages, there is faint evidence that there is some soul hiding deep away in Gradgrind behind is cold heart. The quote “Stick to Facts, sir!” indicates that Gradgrind knows that there is more to life than facts. Like before, the ‘f’ in ‘facts’ is a capital letter. The sentence is also very short for impact, effect and punch.

Gradgrind classroom and his addiction to science is shown by the desk arrangement being described as the “boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane”. He is compared to grey, dark, dull imagery that precisely reflects his character. The classroom is bland and so lacking in colour that bright-eyed Sissy Jupe clearly stands out “irradiated” by a lustrous beam of light like an angel among men. Bitzer, one of the most intellectually strong pupils is under Gradgrind’s powerful influence as he fast transforms to a grey shadow, a mere boy possessing no evidence of creativity or emotion. “he would bleed white”. He has been quickly moulded to a machine by Gradgrind’s character to produce accurate definitions and in contrast to Sissy’s repetative deep blushing seems mentally drained after answering Gradgrind’s question on horses which was intellectually a lot harder than she could cope with. Bitzer then correctly answered the same question and his complicated answer eventually satisfied Gradgrind after feeling heavily disappointed that Sissy didn’t meet his expectations.

In the opening couple of chapters of the novel, Dickens emphasizes Gradgrind’s philosophy of calculating, rational self-interest and categorizing. He believes that human nature can be governed by completely rational rules, and he is “ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you what it comes to.” This philosophy has brought Gradgrind success and a strong reputation of sorts in Coketown.

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Gradgrind takes the news of Louisa’s acceptance of proposal from Bounderby very well as opposed to what the reader might expect from Gradgrind at this late stage in the book having built up a detailed profile of Gradgrind already. From his speech I can tell Gradgrind is accepting a more human and personalized way of life as is proved when he rightfully but still slightly sceptically offers Louisa his congratulations.

While the narrator’s tone toward him is initially mocking and ironic, Gradgrind undergoes a significant change in the course of the novel, thereby earning the narrator’s sympathy. When Louisa confesses that she feels something important is missing in her life and that she is very unhappy with her marriage, Gradgrind begins to realize that his system of education may not be what he thought it was – perfect. This intuition is confirmed when he learns Tom has robbed Bounderby’s bank. Faced with the failures of his system, Gradgrind admits “The ground on which I stand has ceased to be solid under my feet.” His children’s problems have since taught Grandgrind to experience emotion. Consiquently, Gradgrind changes into a more understanding, tolerating man. Ultimately changing his utilitarian state of mind to peace, goodwill and happyness.


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