Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times in 1854, it was a political novel used to portray the situation in the Victorian times. The main issues in the novel are education, imagination, the Industrial Revolution and the void between the social classes. He uses the story to tell people his feelings on the situation, by using different groups of people to show the difference between social classes. The situation he portrays shows that the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer, with the combined effort from the industrial revolution, this made the country economically spiral out of control. This was because the rich were taking advantage of the fact that the poor were getting poorer. So the poor needed to get money from any way, shape, or form, so the rich were hiring them, and paying them pittance, this ended up turned the country into economic chaos.
Dickens starts the novel off by starting in the school with the teacher Mr. Gradgrind, at the front of the class. The name Gradgrind gives the reader the image put into their heads of what he might look like I thought that he takes the children in and grinds them down. The school is described as ‘plain, bare, a monotonous vault of a schoolroom,’ which gives the image that the school is like the inside of a prison.
At the start Gradgrind is bombarded with huge amounts of imagery and similes from Dickens, ‘his head covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie,’ ‘page 2’. Dickens uses important imagery, such as the usage of the word square for Gradgrind’s physical appearance repeatedly, ‘he had a square wall for a forehead,’ on page 1 then on page two he writes,’ square coat, square legs, square shoulders.’ These pieces of imagery build up a picture in our heads of a weirdly misshapen man who is described like this to make him a figure of comedy.
The way that Gradgrind says,’ facts, all I want is facts.’pg1. Gives Gradgrind the description of being eminently practical because of the way he wants the pupils all being the same in the way they work and having no flaws in his teachings. Also the surroundings to the school such as Gradgrind’s home Stone Lodge, the name gives the feeling that the house was cold, dark, lifeless and lacked the heart warming feeling called love.
The town, which Gradgrind’s house is in, is described by Dickens to be very similar to the way that the name of Gradgrind’s home might suggest. It says ‘tall chimneys, which let out tall serpents of impermeable smoke,’ this suggests that the smoke is so thick that the light of the sun cannot penetrate it thus leaving the town in darkness. Likewise the way that the town was,’ a town of machinery’, pg28, and part of a factory was described to have,’ a steam engine which worked monotonously’, relates to the way that Gradgrind teaches. It reminds me of Gradgrind because of the way he teaches, he does not vary his teaching style, it is all just facts, facts, facts. Once pupils have finished their education they end up with the same personality, ie: life less and no freedom of thought, other than facts.
The way that Dickens describes Gradgrind, makes Gradgrind seem funny and slightly ridiculous is the way in which he has described Gradgrind seem to be a stereotype is in the way that he is described to be square all over. This was like Gradgrind had formed into a shape or a certain type of personality and there was no way he or anyone else was going to change the way he had become. Gradgrind’s wife is in some ways quite pathetic, because she just lies around on the couch telling Gradgrind to go and do something fun, when she clearly does not understand his way of living or the way he thinks. Gradgrind’s whole life since the day he was brought up has evolved round facts, facts and nothing but facts so telling him to do something fun, won’t be understood by him because he had never experienced it as a child.
Gradgrind plays a very important role in the novel; he acts as the main core to the personalities of people such as Bitzer, Tom and Louisa. The way that Bitzer has been effected is that he has ended up being selfish, heartless and willing to put others on the line to better his life. One important moment, which showed that Bitzer had no thought other than fact, was when Gradgrind said, “do you have no heart.” Bitzer does not see the word heart as compassion but says the only thing a person of his calibre would say, “of course I have a heart how could I live without one.”