Charles Dickens’, Hard Times extract focuses on the relationship between a father and daughter discussing marriage during the nineteenth century. In this extract there is the daughter, Louisa, who is discussing her marriage to Mr. Bounderby with her father. She is worried yet excited about getting married. Her Father is concerned yet unaware of what his daughter means to say. This story is told in a third person narrative.
The main characters in the passage are Louisa and her Father Mr.
Gradgrind. In the extract Louisa has to deal with her father’s unawareness and she has to decide whether or not to marry Mr. Bounderby. Mr. Gradgrind, Louisa’s father, doesn’t understand his daughter. She tries to tell him how she feels, but he doesn’t realize this.
“Father, I have often thought that life is very short.”
By this Louisa means to say that she wants to find love and affection and that she doesn’t want life or the marriage to prevent her from finding this.
When she says this her father replies with statistics;
“It is short, no doubt, my dear. Still the average duration of human life is proved to have increased of late years.”
The reader is left with a sort of confusion as to what it is that Dickens means. I believe that he replying with statistics might be an indication that he wants to give her knowledge. It may not indicate that he doesn’t understand but that he wants her to think, and to not throw her life away looking for this so called “love.
” Therefore all in all, it might be and sign that he himself has never felt love. “Increase of late years” could mean that it is only with age that you gain wisdom. When examining the conversation between the main characters, Charles Dickens provides us with a kind of image how life from woman during that time was. We don’t learn much about the setting, other than that it is in place called Coketown, probably sometime during the 1840s, nineteenth century.
Something we do learn a lot about is the main characters. After reading this passage we get a sense of what they are like. Louisa is gentle, dutiful, loyal, worried, and concerned about her future. She decides to go through with the marriage because it’s the right thing to do. Mr. Gradgrind is informated, sympathetic, and is gently forcing her to marry Mr. Bounderby. He wants the best for his daughter and wants her to be wise. The name Gradgrind gives us a feeling that he is not top quality; he is average, so his social status is possibly middle class. Bounderby, on the other hand, sounds like a person with expectations and dreams. He sounds like a wealthy man with boundaries and control.
You can also guess that Louisa and her Father are middle class because of their language in the passage. Mr. Gradgrind says “I do not see the application of the remark.” This indicates that the language is that of someone in the middle or upper class. In the beginning of the passage Louisa and her father, Mr. Gradgrind, are sitting in a room that overlooks the chimneys of Coketown. ‘..She sat so long looking silently towards the town that he said, at length: “Are you consulting the chimneys of the Coketown works, Louisa?”‘ Already we can see the arrangement of words is different from today’s language indicating it is most likely of an earlier period. The punctuation is different from present day as well for the reason that Dickens uses more commas in the extract.
As the conversation continues we see more signs of the language being of an earlier period, and a dilemma is formed. Louisa states:
“There seems to be nothing there, but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out, father!” Here Louisa reflects what she feels. What Louisa means is that during the day she sees the proposal from Mr. Bounderby as something disappointing, seeing as its not “love”, but at night she kind of gets excited because she realizes its like an adventure. Her Father replies, “of course I know that, Louisa. I do not see the application of the remark.” This shows how he doesn’t comprehend. She is trying to get his attention, trying to explain to him how she feels. We get a feeling that Louisa is around the age 16-20, because during this time period fathers wanted to marry off their daughters’ when they were at that age. Her father is in a way gently pushing her to go marry Mr. Bounderby, once again kind of indicating that he thinks she should be wise?
After discussing further with her Father Louisa come to the decision to marry Mr. Bounderby. She starts to speak down to her father:
“Tell him, Father, as soon as you please, that this was my answer. Repeat it, word for word, if you can, because I should wish him to know what I said.”
She probably speaks down to him because in the conversation she’s trying to tell him how she feels and he doesn’t understand. So she speaks down to him because she feels he is kind of unintelligent. This conversation must have been rather frustrating for Louisa, since her father didn’t made it obvious that he did not grasp what she was saying.
In the passage the third person narrative is effective. It forces you to build up an image in your mind, kind of creating a mental film of what happening.
“Mr. Gradgrind had drawn his chair a little nearer to her, and taken her hand.”
In the text there is also some alliteration:
“..Steady straight…” It helps to create an atmosphere. Dickens writes in a way so that the text flows and pulls you in.
Since this is a piece of the extract from a novel it is tricky to analyze it without relating it to the whole novel. What we can get from it is that the central purpose of this passage is to explain how things between a father and daughter during this time period work. What went through their minds, how they felt about marriage and what their fathers wanted them to do. With descriptive conversation that portrays another meaning, Charles Dickens had managed to create a short calm scene. The passage teaches us about life during the nineteenth century with use of two protagonists, and shows a mastery of the writer’s art.