Hard Times Essay, Research Paper
Hard Times by Dickens, Structure as it Relates to Plot and Characterixation
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.
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 “little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.” (Dickens 10). Gradgrind’s methods of education are employed to show Dickens’ view on the evil of the educational system. Among the “little pitchers” 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. 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 219). 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. 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