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Explore how Dickens establishes the characters of Gradgrind and Bounderby in the opening five chapters of ‘Hard Times’ and how he influences the reader opinion of them. The purpose of this assignment is to consider what the author of ‘Hard Times’; Charles Dickens in actuality thinks of the two characters Mr Thomas Gradgrind and Mr Josiah Bounderby in the opening five chapters of the novel. Furthermore I am trying to explore how Dickens tries to influence our view on the two characters on our first impression.
In the opening chapter, ‘The one thing needful’, we start to discover Mr Gradgrinds harsh and unpleasant personality. On the first line Gradgrind, who we don’t identify at this stage of the book, says, “Now, what I want is, Facts, Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts, Facts alone…. ….. root out everything else. ” This implies to us that Gradgrind doesn’t want his pupils to have a single element of enjoyment inside them, and suggest that the children will be sorrowful rather than in high spirits whilst being educated.
Dickens also starts to bring an element of gloom into the book for the reason that on the second chapter he starts describing the classroom as prison like, when Dickens give emphasis to the scene by describing it, “The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school room”. Dickens goes on to speak about how the speaker fitted in well with this room, by saying how, “The emphasis was helped by the speakers square wall of a forehead, which had its eyebrows for its base, while his eyes were found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, over shadowed by the wall.
In chapter two, ‘Murdering The Innocents’, Thomas Gradgrind is portrayed and introduced by Charles Dickens. He commences by telling us how Gradgrind is a man of realities and of facts and calculations. Dickens then tells us how Gradgrind would deposit himself as a model citizen. In the same chapter we are introduced to a girl named Sissy Jupe who in Gradgrinds eyes was ‘girl number twenty’. She was selected by Gradgrind to introduce herself to him. But instantly Gradgrind is displeased with her after she gave him her nickname, so after a small debate between the two, Gradgrind decided she ought be called Cecilia.
After an additional discussion between the two about Sissy’s father’s occupation, which Gradgrind decided was a veterinary surgeon and horse breaker. Sissy was asked to define a horse. Sissy struggled, so Gradgrind asked Bitzer, a intellectual student to classify a horse, which he did without any problem. But Dickens describes him by telling us, “His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes… His short cropped hair… sandy freckles on his forehead and face… His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge.
” We begin to dislike both Gradgrind and Bitzer and favour Sissy because Gradgrind humiliated Sissy and since Bitzer was one of these students full of facts and no fun we feel like he adds ‘salt into the wound’. In chapter three, ‘A Loophole’ we finally get an insight into Thomas Gradgrind’s home-life where we are first introduced to his family of five children all models of Mr Gradgrind. We also find out that his house is called Stone Lodge, which was situated one or two miles from a town formerly known as Coketown.
We are told that his children are starved of imagination and were bought up on facts and instead of having drawers and cabinets full of the enjoyable fixations children boast, the Gradgrind children have cabinets full of various departments of science. When we finally get to see Louisa and Tom, Mr Gradgrinds Children they are at a circus, since Gradgrind had evidently objected to the principle of fun in the opening chapters in the book, we are drawn into the story when we want to identify how Gradgrind will respond towards his own children who are in a circus.
Then when we hear Louisa Gradgrind talk about why she and young Tom Gradgrind came, She said, “Wanted to see what it was like. ” The way she speaks this is almost robotic just like Bitzer from the school. After this question of, why, from Gradgrind, he discovers it was Louisa’s idea, Gradgrind was even more upset with the pair. At the end of this chapter we hear Gradgrind say to himself, “what would Mr Bounderby say as if Mr Bounderby was the equivalent of Mrs Gradgrind? In chapter 4, ‘Mr Bounderby’ we find out who Mr Bounderby is, Dickens describes him as,
“A rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer… A big, loud man, with a stare and a metallic laugh. A man made out made out of a coarse material… A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temple. ” This makes me imagine Josiah Bounderby as a big industry man whose main interest is money as he is after all a banker. But according to him he was born a poor citizen who is a self-made success, and described himself to Mrs Gradgrind as a man without, “… a shoe on his foot. As to a stocking.
I didn’t know such a thing by name. I passed the day in a ditch, and the night in a pigsty. That’s the way I spent my tenth birthday. Not that a ditch was new to me, for I was born in a ditch. ” This may make us feel slightly remorseful for Bounderby. Later on in the chapter we find out that Sissy Jupe’s father Mr Jupe has ran away, and this is seen as a problem for Mr Gradgrind and Bounderby because Sissy is a student at Gradgrinds School and she has no mother or anyone else really to turn to apart from Mr Sleary the circus keeper.
Gradgrind decided to adopt Sissy therefore she could help look after Mrs Gradgrind aswell as become a good student at Gradgrind’s model school. Sissy accepted this proposition, all of which made Bounderby upset and in distress over the idea of a teenager who was not brought up on facts will be sharing his lifestyle. At of this stage in the book makes us wonder if Gradgrind is really as harsh as he looks like he is or he is going to use Sissy as a servant to help look after Mrs Gradgind and the house.
The writer also turns us against Bounderby because he won’t help give an orphan a further opportunity in life and education. Continuing in this chapter we also begin to realise the affections Josiah Bounderby has for Louisa. Even though he admires Tom as he more than admires Louisa, Later on in the novel Bounderby goes on to marry Louisa. So when Bounderby kisses Louisa and then goes off, she grabs a cloth to rub her cheek where Bounderby kissed her, and Tom describes her rubbing her cheek so firmly that she’ll ‘rub a hole in her face.
‘ And she replies by saying ‘you may cut the piece out with your penknife… ‘, This makes us think that Louisa doesn’t appreciate Josiah’s affections. Finally my assessment shows Gradgrind’s and Bounderby’s personalities are based on facts, but through the story Gradgrind was becoming a better character whilst Bounderby was still depraved. And how he had affections for Louisa and then wanted to marry her later on in the novel shows that he is determined to get what he wants, without the opinion of others.