Hard Times written by Charles Dickens in 1848, is often thought to be his most political novel he ever wrote. Hard Times may have been his shortest piece of work, but it was definitely his hardest hitting novel as it gives his views on Utilitarianism which defined Victorian Society, many suffered from in the Victorian Times. The book is set in the Victorian Times which gives Dickens the chance to express his feelings he has towards life in the Victorian Times and how society is. The book along with other novels by Dickens is set over a long period of time. Dickens feels people should rid themselves of the habit of running their factory like lives as a machine being greedy and dull and put an end to their compassion for facts.
Dickens uses Thomas Gradgrind in the book to show how he believes a typical person from the Victorian Times is presented. He shows him as having a very square appearance making him boring, the same as everyone else in those times as they all have a compassion for facts. Dickens believes everyone should stop expressing their need for facts and their greed, and spend more of their time carrying out leisurable activities.
Society also has a problem and this is brought up in this book. The divide between the social classes with the line between the rich and the poor widening in this day. The book exemplifies the fact that the rich get richer and the poor get just keep on getting poorer. Also there was a problem with the rich exploiting the poor, this was completely unfair, also it was an even bigger case than it turned out to be as nothing was being done to prevent it. The poor worked in factories with low wages, no safety and no holidays, this made Dickens hate the industrialists.
Education was plagued and disturbed at the time with facts being loved in the Victorian Times. Facts went hand in hand though with Gradgrind with him living by them in his profession and being “hailed with facts”. “Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the most commonest of animals!” this summing up how obsessed he is with facts and how he lives by them. He ended up turning his school into a factory, which ran like a machine, they just fed the pupils facts without them being properly educated, this happened every day. The key imagery Dickens uses to describe Gradgrind is based entirely squarely at the beginning, this being Dickens immediately into the book trying to influence the reader how we think he is and how dull he is.
The name Gradgrind matches his description of hard and grinding factual information into his pupils without teaching them properly. Dickens makes Gradgrind seem ridiculous with his square appearance and “metallic voice” making him very mechanical like and dull. Dickens tries at the beginning to make him seem weird and funny with him saying ‘the emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for it’s base, while his eyes found commodious coverage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall’.
This quote immediately makes him at the beginning of the book seem a hideous, weird character and someone easy to laugh at. With Dickens throughout the play mocking Gradgrind and saying how his wife seems dead, also talking about how his home seems bland and boring. Also with him disliking imagination people will think there’s something wrong with him.
Gradgrind is in the play for Dickens to express his views on society, but his role is Master of the Gradgrind House. At the school, which he set up and sponsors, he has a very strict policy and only believes in teaching facts to the children. Gradgrind effects his son Tom as he turns into a ruthless, single-minded wicked person turned bank robber who doesn’t think of anyone else proved when he sets up Stephen Blackpool and befriends Harthouse. With Tom is a symbol of what can go wrong All this is hard to believe; he has grown into a person who is more evil than Bounderby, but yet in his infancy he was brought up strictly under the eye of Gradgrind. He has affected Louisa as she is miserable and doesn’t know how to have fun as a result of her upbringing from her father.