In the midst of the industrialization era in Victorian Times, an educational system known as the Utilitarian Model was introduced in order to produce “the greatest good for the greatest number.” Founded by Jeremy Benthan, it consisted of strict discipline, rote education and “facts alone”. Creativity was not encouraged.
Social criticism in Dickens’s Hard Times exposes how people were turning into machines. Dickens effectively uses caricature in writing to mock the educational system at that time. There are also elements of exaggeration, repetition and allusions to emphasize the mockery against utilitarianism. Factory imageries and measuring imagery is used to objectify and depersonalizes characters and thus, to create a false logic in the text.
“Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts.” From the very beginning, Dickens establishes himself within a contemporary debate on the nature of learning, knowledge and education. Utilitarianism was based mainly upon the learning of facts and only facts. This is acknowledged by the constant repetition of the word fact in the first chapter, especially in the first paragraph. The repetition is used to emphasize the importance of facts and that nothing else will ever be of any service to the students. This emphasis is further on stressed by the description of the body language of the speaker. “The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of forehead…” At the same time, an anaphora is used at the beginning of each sentence to put an extra emphasis to the emphasis. Clearly, Dickens does this on purpose to exaggerate this ridiculous emphasis on facts, the one thing needful, according to utilitarianism.
Discuss the significance of Fact and Fancy in Hard Times with particular reference to Dickens’ presentation of the worlds of Sleary’s circus and Coketown. You should focus closely on techniques used and effects created and how both of these things shape our response, as readers, to the text. Dickens uses a range of techniques to present the idea of the importance of and contrast between Fact and ...
The actual scene is depicted as plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom. This contrasts with the idea of sowing and to the biblical allusion of the parable of the Sower . The schoolroom description matches with the wayside, stony places and thorns as metaphorically explained in the parable. Dickens means to say that there is no true sowing taking place in the vault of a schoolroom. The adjectives plain and bare also explain that there is no place for creativity, art or leisure. Another characteristic of utilitarianism.
“The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders…” is described against the archetype of youth (spring, sowing, leisure).
The older men are “square;” yet are ironically depicted that their head[s] had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. Dickens’ hyperbole makes architecture out of the physical description of The Speaker.
Dickens wants to demonstrate that the idea of the child’s mind as a “vessel” that is “ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured” will eventually destroy the child’s mind once they are “full to the brim”. This directly alludes to the story of Ali Baba, where Morgiana, his girl servant pours hot oil to kill the forty thieves hiding in the vessels. Likewise, the pouring of facts on the children’s minds will also make this eventually happen.
Murdering of the innocents is another allusion to the biblical story of King Herod’s genocide in fear for his throne. Although students are literally in danger, the educational system has their childish imagination targeted for annihilation. The children are always expected to do what they are told and to be “regulated and governed by fact”. This slowly destroys their independent character of free-will.
This new chapter is introduced to us with the characters names and social identities. The characters’ names are almost always an immediate indication of where the character fits on Dickens’ moral spectrum. Thomas Gradgrind, “a man of realities” is a hard educator who grinds his students through a factory-like process, hoping to produce graduates. He is also constantly objectified as a “kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts” or as a “galvanizing apparatus.” This exemplifies the perfect result of someone being mechanized and filled of facts. Additionally, Gradgrind is a “doubting Thomas” much like the Biblical apostle who resisted belief in the resurrection. This Thomas urges that students depend exclusively upon the evidence in sight. He dismisses faith, fancy, belief, emotion and trust at once.
Hard Times is a rare example of fiction spun out of very prosaic materials. Yet it possesses certain romantic characteristics of brooding tenderness and deep sympathy for the neglected and the underprivileged which became hall mark of Charles Dickens’ novels. It also displays a grieving melancholy, a mournful reflectiveness and a quantity of self-indulgent sentimentality. The American scholar A. ...
Mr. M’Choakumchild is plainly villainous and his own name resembles the choking of a child. The hard consonants used have an effective onomatopoeic effect representing the sound of the choking of a child. This government officer, “a mighty man at cutting and drying”, “ready to fight all England” and a master in 13 subjects at the ends of his ten chilled fingers represents the finished result of someone “filled” with facts. The exaggeration and hyperbole used to describe him and his intelligence mocks the unimportance of such perfection of knowledge and criticizes the mode of factory-style, mind-numbing, grad-grinding production that takes the fun out of life.
Students are unable exploit fully their intelligence, since they are filled by too many facts and many bits of everything. They are unable to think for themselves and process these facts into their brains. One clear example is Bitzer, who when he is asked to define a horse he responds monotonously with bits of information: “Quadruped, Graminivorous, forty teeth…age known by marks in mouth”. Bitzer’s short sentences and nervous response shows that he is not confident in his answer and that he has extracted his information from something he has read or facts alone. Additionally, he uses another’s person’s words to work out his definition to please Mr. Gradgrind’s expectation.
“Girl number twenty possessed of no facts”. Further on, Gradgrind does not only distort the intelligence and the thinking of a child but objectifies and takes away their self-confidence. Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe is unlike the other character in almost every possible way. While there are other female students, she is the only female identified thus far in the novel. Her character is a romanticized figure. Her last name, “Jupe,” comes from the French word for “skirts” and her first name, Cecilia, represents the sainted patroness of music and clearly, Cecilia represents Art in opposition to mechanization.
Different syntactical phenomena may serve as an expressive stylistic means. Its expressive effect may be based on the absence of logically required components of speech - parts of the sentence, formal words or on the other hand on a superabundance of components of speech; they may be founded on an unusual order of components of speech, the change of meaning of syntactical constructions and other ...
“Thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within.” Ultimately, a last critique is made to the utilitarian model of education. The last sentences stresses that Fancy, a word connoting feelings, art and personal opinion would be “maim” and distorted. . Dickens brilliantly plays out the two opposites of ‘hard fact’ and ‘feeling’ to lead the reader to the inevitable conclusion that sentiment is more important than factual knowledge. Aiding him in this idea are the language features used and the characters of this moral fable, each personified in such a way that they represent, or symbolize, a particular positive or negative notion that Dickens encourages or criticizes.