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Dickens And His Stucture Of Hard Times

Essay, Research Paper

Dickens and his stucture Of Hard Times

On every page Hard Times manifests its identity as a polemical work, a critique of Mid-Victorian

industrial society dominated by materialism, acquisitiveness, and ruthlessly competitive capitalist

economics (Lodge 86). The quotation above illustrates the basis for Hard Times.

Charles Dickens presents in his novel a specific structure to expose the evils and abuses of the

Victorian Era. Dickens use of plot and characterization relate directly to the structure on account

that it shows his view of the mistreatments and evils of the Victorian Era, along with his effort to

expose them through literary methods. A befitting display of structure is evident through his

giving name to the three books contained in Hard Times. The titles of the three appropriately

named books are an allusion to the Bible, and are also given a further twist in Gradgrind s

recommendation to Plant nothing else and root out everything else (except facts) (Lodge 91).

In the first book, titled Sowing, we are introduced to those that Dickens creates a firm

character basis with. The opening chapter emphasizes on Thomas Gradgrind Sr., and his students

fittingly referred to as vessels before him ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them

until they are filled to the brim (Dickens 12). Gradgrind s methods of education are employed to

show Dickens view on the evil of the educational system. Among the vessels are Bitzter and

Sissy Jupe. They exemplify two entirely different ideas, serving Dickens for allegorical purposes.

Bitzer, the model student of Gradgrind s school of facts, facts, facts becomes the very symbol

of evil in the educational system that Dickens is trying to portray, as he learns to take care for

number one, himself. Reflection of this and Bitzer s informative definition of a horse, as a child in

book one, occurs in book three as he speaks of the necessity of apprehending Tom Gradgrind Jr.

Sissy represents what Dickens is attempting to foster a desire for in the reader, imagination. This

is an aspect that the other children lack or are reprimanded for possessing. Another character

introduced to the reader is Josiah Bounderby, an acknowledged, self-made man. Following him is

Louisa Gradgrind, and her brother Thomas Gradgrind Jr. who are first shown trying to catch a

glimpse of Sleary s circus, only to be caught by there father. Stephen Blackpool is brought into

the novel to represent the honesty, virtue, and commitment of the working class. It is clear that

Dickens is speaking through Stephen… and this sheds light on his idea of what is necessary for

life during those times. As the seeds are sown in book one the reader becomes aware of the plot

unfolding. The use of the characters takes not only an allegorical purpose, but that of relation.

The characters are endowed with intricate, human like qualities, so that the reader can better

relate. In book two, titled Reaping, Dickens uses the characters to continue to represent the

different aspects of the Victorian Era that he mistrusts. This is demonstrated through the apparent

discord of the marriage of Louisa and her new husband, Bounderby. Stephen is used to illustrate

the frustrations of the working class as they were mistreated by the Utilitarians and the upper

class. Tom Gradgrind Jr., the whelp, is shown to feed of the love of his sister, leaving him to

become nothing more than a robber and a liar. Thomas Gradgrind Sr. becomes a member of the

Parliament to better his social stature. Bounderby continues to grow wealthier in owning a bank

that he mistakenly puts under Tom Gradgrind Jr. Mrs. Sparsit now resides over the bank after

being relieved of her job. The events taking place in book two are a reaping of the initial seeds

sown. Dickens use of structure is preparing the reader for the garnering in book three. Book

three, titled Garnering, is where all of the Utilitarian ideas, that Dickens scorns, begin to fall

apart and fade away. Thomas Gradgrind Sr. is made aware of his misteachings through Louisa s

confession as she collapses at her father s feet declaring, All that I know is, your philosophies

and your teaching will not save me, (Dickens 218). Bounderby is brought down through his

losing Louisa and the disclosure of Mrs. Pegler by Mrs. Sparsit. Sissy and Stephen remain to be

the moral component of Dickens work. Sissy s hold on imagination is proven a necessity of life

and is what the products of the utilitarian education seem to lack. Stephen s portrayal of a

virtuous man of the working class is used to show Dickens idea of a tangible necessity in life. The

voice of social conscience Dickens uses throughout his novel is the structure he wanted to

provide, and is shown obvious through Dickens use of the plot. The downfall of the educational

system in Gradgrind and the exposure of Bounderby displays the utilitarian convictions

destructed. Sissy s endurance and Stephen s death leave them as the heroine and martyr for the

novel, (http://faculty.web.waseda.ac.jp/glaw/arts/IndRels/IndRels.html). It is now evident to the

reader that Dickens attempt at exposing the evils of the Victorian Era through the plot,

characterization, and structure of Hard Times was successful. Works Cited Dickens, Charles.

Hard Times. New York: Penguin Group, 1961. Lodge, David. The Rhetoric of Hard Times. New

York: Columbia University