Analysis, Pages 3 (612 words)
To what extent do you agree with this statement? Dickens was clearly strongly influenced by many contemporary issues when writing Hard Times, as such, the book has strong political themes which are analysed in detail. We can see in Hard Times that Stephen Blackpool is intended to represent the honest hard-working, working class person. He has no aspirations to be what he is not and is not out to cause trouble. All he wants is to lead an ordinary fair life which however, he knows is almost impossible.
Dickens presents many of the social problems covered in the novel through Stephen Blackpool.
His problems with the divorce laws for example highlight the unfairness of the laws at the time. One could only divorce if you had the money to do so. Therefore it was the preserve of the middle and upper classes. ” ‘and it would cost you… I suppose from a thousand to fifteen hundred pound,’ said Mr Bounderby… ‘Why then, sir,’ said Stephen… ’tis a muddle.
‘” This idea of presenting the lower classes as decent people ay have contradicted middle class beliefs of the time. Dickens seems to be attempting to dispel the myth which Bounderby perpetuates that they all crave rewards without work; and are lazy idle and selfish.
“You don’t expect to be set up in a coach and six, and to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, as a good many of ’em do! ” Dickens even goes so far as to suggest that the middle classes are over-privileged and enjoy luxury at the expense of the working class.
“there seemed, however to have been a misadventure or mistake in Stephens life, whereby somebody else had become possessed of his roses, and he had become possessed of the same somebody else’s thorns in addition to his own. ”
However, Dickens is clearly aware of his middle class readership, and would clearly be loath to alienate them (he had to make money whilst working toward a better society). His representation of Stephen Blackpool’s alcoholic wife is extremely negative and was definitely a view of the working classes held by many middle class people. “A disabled, drunken creature, barely able to preserve her posture by steadying herself with one begrimed hand on the floor. ” Although this character may be an attempt to make the reader feel pity for the unfortunate Blackpool, it could not help but enforce stereotypes of the time.
The character Rachael is in direct contrast with Blackpool’s wife and is almost angelic in her actions. “Thou art an Angel. Bless thee, bless thee! ” I don’t believe however, that this is a comment on working class women as a whole but is in reference to another contemporary social issue; the role of women in the home. Rachael is the ideal, she is pure of heart and represents the most wholesome of Christian values. This was seen very much as the place of women at the time; to keep their husbands on the Christian path.
Rachael and Blackpool’s wife as characters are also symptomatic of Dickens’ tendency to portray women as either malevolent harpies or chaste and virtuous. Also Stephen’s experience of trade unions in the novel, highlights issues of the time. Dickens seems to be quite wary of trade unions. He has little respect for the union leaders, as is shown by his contemptible portrayal of Slackbridge. “He was not so honest, he was not so manly, he was not so good humoured; he substituted cunning for their simplicity and passion for their solid sense. ” This description not only degrades Slackbridge, but compliments the working class union members.