In Hard Times Charles Dickens portrays Louisa Gradgrind as a realistic character who faces conflict from the start of her life. Louisa encounters three major psychological conflicts in the form of three different men: Mr. Gradgrind, Mr. Bounderby, and Tom Gradgrind. Men play a very important role in the shaping of Louisa’s life. Instead of being her own person and expressing her own feelings, Louisa falls under the realm of these three men.
Since the beginning of her life, Louisa isn’t allowed to express herself because her father continually stresses the facts. Mr. Gradgrind suppresses Louisa’s imagination and all she can do is wonder. One example of Louisa attempting to view the unknown occurs when she and Tom peep through a loophole in order to see a circus (8). This is the first time both Louisa and Tom have seen such a sight. When asked why they were there, Louisa curiously answers, “Wanted to see what it was like” (8), a response any normal child would have. Her “starved imagination” (8) is curious and needs some sort of avenue for release. As Louisa blossoms into a young lady, the young Miss Gradgrind enchants one particular suitor. Her father thought that it was time for Louisa to marry and had a suitable companion in mind. When Mr. Gradgrind asks Louisa if she would like to be Mrs. Bounderby, all Louisa can utter is, “You have been so careful of me, that I never had a child’s dream. You have dealt so wisely with me, father, from my cradle to this hour, that I never had a child’s belief or a child’s fear” (63). Mr. Gradgrind interprets his daughter’s words as a compliment to him and his strict belief in teaching only the facts. But Louisa means she has not experienced life and has never been given the chance. Her childhood has been murdered by her father’s strict insistence on the perpetuation of facts only. Although Louisa realizes she has been enslaved by the theories of fact, she willingly enters yet another bondage to Mr. Bounderby allowing the process of her suppression to continue.
Mr. Bounderby is yet another man in Louisa’s life who expects her to conform to the system implemented by men in society. This young girl, more than half his junior, appeals to Josiah Bounderby and soon they wed.
Utilitarian Logic in Hard Times
Utilitarian Logic in Hard Times
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