Victorian Society Essay
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In the novel Hard Times, Dickens reveals the Victorian Society as apathetic, harsh and depressing. Both the environment and characters are shown to be dark, dull and drab. Dickens uses a variety of techniques to show these. I am going to explore several issues from Dickens’s point of view on Victorian Society, including education, marriage, industrialisation, the relationship between the middle class and the working class, and how Dickens uses different methods and techniques to present all these.
I will refer to chapters one, two, five, eleven and fifteen while discussing all these different aspects.
In chapter 2, Murdering the Innocents, the title immediately tells us that someone is going to react in a certain attitude towards someone else. This is an effective way to start the chapter as it gives a hint to the reader about what will happen in the chapter. Dickens is basically trying to show us as the reader how boring and demanding life was at school in Victorian Society in this chapter. He uses phrases like “Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!
And “Bitzer, your definition of a horse” to show how the pupils were being treated by Mr Gradgrind. Mr Gradgrind is described as “dictatorial” and “square” which means that he is a tyrannical person and he likes to order people to do things for him because he thinks he has more power than other people. A good example of this is when Mr Gradgrind talks to Sissy Jupe. He asks her for her name and when she replies, he immediately changes her name for her “don’t call yourself Sissy, call yourself Cecilia. ” This shows exactly how strict and harsh time was for the pupils.
Dickens has chosen the characters very carefully in this novel like the name “Mr Gradgrind” it basically means he grinds on and on and on about things just like the way he teaches his students. He created this character because he is wanting us to react in a certain emotion and feeling. A good example of this is when Gradgrind talks to Louisa about the marriage proposal, “You have been well trained, you are not impulsive, you are not romantic, you are accustomed to view everything from the strong dispassionate ground of reason and calculation.
From that ground alone, I know you will view and consider what I am going to communicate. ” This tells us how Gradgrind brings up Louisa and how hard life is for her. He always tries to fill the pupils with facts “waiting to be filled so full of facts” and he also tries to take all their imagination and excitement away. When Bitzer explains the definition of a horse “quadruped, graminivorous, forty teeth, namely twenty four grinders, four eye teeth and twelve incisive. ” Here Dickens is trying to show us how the students are being taught and trained by Mr Gradgrind.
They are all brought up with facts, facts and facts and they eventually become “not impulsive” and with no imagination at all. Dickens totally hates the education policy in Victorian Society; he gives a few examples of showing this. In the first paragraph in chapter 1, Dickens shows straight away that life was a misery for the pupils “now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts! Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else.
This is the principle of which I bring up my own children and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. ” This dialogue from Mr Gradgrind automatically shows that he doesn’t like anything apart from facts and that he is trying to make all these pupils including his own children to follow his footsteps, “Facts alone I wanted in life” is what Mr Gradgrind believes and tells his students. Another point Dickens tries to tell us is that the pupils don’t have their own freedom and individuality, they are known as different numbers instead of their name, “girl number 20!
” This suggests to us that they are being trained and looked after like animals in a zoo. The setting Dickens has chosen in this chapter is in a very plain and dull classroom described as, “plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school room” This is not a good place for education as it is dull, “ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely whitewashed room. ” Dickens uses all these different techniques to express his views on education. Dickens shows us that Mr Gandgrind is a bit selfish, demanding and aggressive.
He only looks at one point and believes he is always right and other people are wrong, “with a rule and a pair of scales, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature and tell you exactly what it comes to. ” Dickens has used this phrase to describe Mr Gradgrind, and it is a very effective phrase because it creates an image in our heads of how demanding he is and how obsessed with facts he is. Mr Gradgrind thinks his way of educating is excellent but really, he is destroying all the students’ precious lives and his own children as well, he keeps them in a small private study room and never allows them to see the “real world”.
An example of this is when Louisa and Tom goes and visits the circus, “peeping at the circus”. Dickens is trying to suggest that Louisa and Tom are sick of their lives and they really want to visit the outside world. They have no other friends at all apart from each other and they can not communicate with any other people outside their house or class, “I am sick of my life, Loo. I hate it altogether and I hate everybody except you! ” This shows how dull and boring their lives were and how bad they were brought up by Mr Gradgrind.
When Mr Gradgrind finds out that they were in the circus, he was very furious because he thought circuses were foolish things and wasn’t anything to do with facts, “Thomas and you to whom the circle of the science is open; Thomas and you, who may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas and you, who have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas and you here! In this degraded position! ” Yet, he is still talking about facts when he is telling them to go home! Dickens really puts a picture in the reader’s mind that Mr Gradgrind is totally obsessed with FACTS and he finds nothing else interesting or entertaining.
Because of Gradgrind’s obsession with facts, this has leaded on a huge effect on Louisa. When Louisa got older and older, she became more dispassionate. Even when a marriage proposal was being made, she act as though she didn’t care about it and marriage was a huge commitment. Dickens shows an interesting point on marriage. He suggests to us that life was unfair for people who got married and wished to get divorced because there were strict laws to punish them and he also shows that marriage wasn’t about real love in many cases.
Dickens shows this by using phrases like, “there is a law to punish me” when Stephen Blackpool asks for advice about ending a marriage with Mr Bounderby because he is sick of his wife and he can not stand it anymore, “I cannot bear’t nommore! ” Blackpool tries very hard to get divorced and he even pays his wife a lot of money to keep her away from him, “I ha’ paid her to keep awa’ fra’ me” but it never worked because she kept coming back and coming back. Dickens is trying to suggest that there is no “love” at all in their marriage and that Stephen Blackpool is really suffering from marriage.
Another reason why Blackpool wants to get divorced is so that he could marry Rachel instead, “he wishes to be free, to marry the female whom he speaks” Dickens is showing us how much Stephen Blackpool loves Rachel here. After the conversation between Blackpool and Bounderby, Bounderby could not help him because Stephen needed a lot of money on order to get divorced and Bounderby wouldn’t lend him the money. This chapter reveals that Mr Bounderby is a very law abiding citizen and that he won’t go out of his way to help other people.
Another interesting point that Dickens suggests about marriage is when Mr Gradgrind talks to Louisa about the marriage proposal. When she hears the news from Gradgrind, she had no emotion at all, “she never said a word” and “without any visible emotion. ” This suggests that she doesn’t care who she gets married to even to the person she hates the most, a good example of this is when Mr Bounderby kisses Louisa on the cheek (Chp 4) and when he left, she immediately rubbed her cheeks furiously, “you may cut the piece out with your penknife and I wouldn’t cry! “