Hard Times

In chapter 2, a little girl is introduced and is called Sissy Jupe. Mr Gradgrind has given each pupil a number for which they will be called for their school life. Dickens introduces fancy into the story in the form of Sissy Jupe. Gradgrind gives Sissy her proper name Cecilia, Gradgrind does not approve of nicknames, as they are not factual. Sissy’s Father works at the circus. Bitzer, a boy in the same class is asked to define a horse. He is completely factual, whereas Sissy is all fancy. Later in the chapter, a teacher called M’Choakumchild is introduced. Dickens satirises the name M’Choakumchild.

In chapter 3, Mr Gradgrind finds his children looking in at the circus. Dickens introduces the two most important characters of the story. He treats his children as machines. Mr Bounderby is lecturing Mrs Gradgrind. Bounderby is a satirical portrait of a factory owner who boasted of his early struggles to justify his wealth and his workers poverty. He is described as: ‘The bully of Humility’ Mrs Gradgrind, with not much factual education tells her children to: ‘Go and do somethingological’ Mrs Gradgrind is listless and we get a sense of her disordered mind.

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Gradgrind has driven out all ‘nonsense’ out of her head, and facts will not stick there. Coketown is described, City of smoke and endless labour. Fact rules the religious life of Coketown. The chapels of the eighteenth denominations all look like warehouses, and all fail in their Christian duty to minister to the workers. The words ending this paragraph: ‘World without end, Amen’ echo the book of common prayer of the Church of England. Mimicking religious language is a frequent ironic device used by Dickens. In chapter 6, Sissy Jupe’s father has gone missing.

Gradgrind takes her on to ‘train’ her in his system. Mr Sleary, the circus master, explains his philosophy of amusement. He makes a speech setting it out. ‘Life is all not work; people must be amuthed. ‘ In chapter 8, Louisa and Tom Gradgrind are in their room. Louisa wonders about the future even though her father has taught her to ‘never wonder. ‘ Young Tom Gradgrind wants to use his sister’s influence with Bounderby. The appearance of Mrs Gradgrind, unloved and unloving, at the end of the chapter, emphasises how heartless a home with this factual regime has produced.

Louisa’s love for Tom is all that has survived. We are introduced to Stephen Blackpool and in chapter 11 we can see the contrast between the rights of the rich and the poor. Stephen wishes for a divorce but discovers it is extremely expensive. This says that the law is more in favour of the rich than the poor. Dickens uses this to point out to the public that this is happening outside the book as well. Bounderby’s house and Stephen’s house are also contrasted in chapter 11. Dickens shows the poverty of the workers compared to the wealth and luxuries of the factory owners.

It is ironic that Bounderby stresses to Stephen the sanctity of marriage when he will later be quick to divorce Louisa. In chapter 15, Gradgrind tells Louisa of Mr Bounderby’s proposal and Mr Gradgrind tells Louisa to use her head and forget her heart. He dismisses Louisa’s questions on love as irrelevant and tells her to concentrate on facts. He says the expression love may be a little misplaced. ‘Therefore, perhaps the expression itself – I merely suggest this to you, my dear – May be a little misplaced. ‘ Louisa agrees to Mr Bounderby’s proposal very reluctantly.

We later find out that the only reason she accepted was for Tom. The title ‘father and daughter’ draws attention to the ironic point that his father guidance and her dutiful obedience have cumulated in this unnatural scene. It is the climax of Gradgrind’s experiment with Louisa’s upbringing and of her lifelong suppression of ‘sentiment. ‘ Dickens is saying that this issue is based entirely on facts. Marriage is factual and love does not count. Dickens is saying that these things should be observed with more over facts.

Bounderby, a factory owner believes in laissez-faire like every other factory owner. This meant that the government should interfere in industry as little as possible. Dickens believed laissez-faire was very wrong and that if the government interfered with industry, people would be in better living conditions because the government would make the pay fairer. In chapter 16, Bounderby marries Louisa after she gave in to her father’s wishes and allegations about love as ‘misplaced’. Mrs Sparsit moves to a job at the bank.

In conclusion, life was poor for the average worker and Dickens, using his views, wrote books to try illustrate to the people how they were being ripped off and the government and the government favoured the rich and left the poor to make their own way in life and earn their own food, drink and vital supplies to live. Britain was described as ‘two nations’, the rich and the poor. Dickens wanted to use his books to show how this was true and to show people that there is more to life than just work, that people should enjoy life to the full.

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