In the novel, Hard Times, Dickens uses irony to satirise the Victorian society. To be more precise, he mainly satirises cities’ ongoing industrialism, the nature of humans as well as other things. Dickens uses the technique to ridicule, or to condemn, things he finds ridiculous or bad. In the first chapter, The One Thing Needful, Dickens portrays Thomas Grandgrind’s character clearly to the reader. “Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts…
” (Sowing, Chapter I) This quotation clearly shows that, in the novel, Gradgrind’s initial concept of education is to feed the children facts. The extract, “Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. ” exposes to the reader that Gradgrind feels children, like machines, should be supplied what it is needed i. e. facts, and nothing else (fancy or imagination). It is as though Gradgrind is treating the children like machines. Here, Dickens satirises the education system in which Victorian children went through.Order now
He, personally, agrees that facts are an important part of life but not the only one. Gradgrind’s philosophy proves to be ironic because, later in the novel, Gradgrind feels that his teaching methods are wrong after Louisa tells him that her harsh education has choked her ability to express her feelings emotions. In Book the Third, Gradgrind apologizes to his daughter, Louisa, for her upbringing. “I had proved my – my system to myself, and I have rigidly administered it; and I must bear the responsibility of its failures. ” (Garnering, Chapter I)
This quotation shows how Gradgrind has realised how wrong he has been in raising his children. The repetition, or stutter, “my-my” expresses that he is “at a loss for words” (Garnering, Chapter I). The use of irony is effective because in the opening chapters of the novel, Gradgrind was a self-esteemed speaker; now, he seems incapable of stringing words together to form a sentence. His method’s turnaround, and detection of its collapses to precisely portray reality as it is, is just one of the novel’s many connections with irony.
The ironic satire, of the education system and industrialists, comes off in this instance because Gradgrind has always been a man who backs his own decisions and not one who frequently makes mistakes and has to apologise. Alternatively, however, Dickens could amplify his portrayal of Gradgrind’s sorrow by having Gradgrind leaking tears or have him beg Louisa for forgiveness. Despite the interpretation of the quotation above, Gradgrind could just be feigning to be sorry. Although Gradgrind claims to be sorry, his daughter Louisa, who should know him well, does not seem to forgive him for his acts, despite refusing to blame him.
“She could give him no comfort herein. She had suffered the wreck of her whole life upon the rock. ” (Garnering, Chapter I) This quotation shows that, despite Gradgrind being sorry, Louisa cannot find it in her to comfort him; even though that he is her father. This could show that she is very upset and/or angry; and therefore will not forgive him of his wrongdoing. However, she may be failing to comfort her father because she, as a product of his education system, is not able, or struggles to, express emotion.
This is even more ironic. Here, Dickens satirises the nature of Gradgrind, who has always felt that anything could be weighed and measured- like in trade. It is satirised by Gradgrind realising that his own philosophy is wrong. Towards the end of the first book, Sowing, Dickens also satirises Gradgrind’s nature. Like in Book the Third, Chapter I, Gradgrind is “very different from his usual dictatorial manner”. In the sequence where he discloses Bounderby’s marriage proposal to Louisa, his self-confidence has vaporised.
The irony used is effective because, as mentioned previously, Gradgrind (at the novel’s beginning) is a man full of self-esteem. “He took a paper-knife in his hand, turned it over, laid it down, took it up again, and even then had to look along the blade of it, considering how to go on. ” (Sowing, Chapter XV) This quotation portrays Dickens’ intentional irony. The latter part of the quotation, “considering how to go on. ” shows how Gradgrind has no sense of direction. His repetition of actions (“He took a paper-knife in his hand, turned it over, laid it down, took it up again…”) indicate, or would do in most people, a loss of direction or boredom.
The irony used to satirise is effective because Gradgrind was, previously, not a man who lacked direction and confidence. On the contrary, Gradgrind was a man full of self-belief and felt that everything he did is correct. Here, the irony used to satirise Gradgrind’s nature works because Dickens has shown the change of personality of someone who is initially a utilitarian and not the personality of someone who has always lacked self-confidence.