Hard Times

Charles Dickens

Hard times is very based on materialism.
• Utilitarianism reflects the necessity to reach happiness, but as an economic, material achievement;
• Materialism was the attitude of society to stress the material gain and neglect a spiritual condition.
• It’s a critique to materialism: human beings are reduced to machines in order to produce material goods.

Because materialism is one of the most important topics in his work, the very fundamental particle of materiality is matter: we can see materiality in the characters, in fact the two protagonists are extremely materials.

Nothing but Facts

Charles Dickens

Hard Times (1854), book I, chapter I

Mr Gradgrind, presented through his voice, tries to educate his pupils in a material way: education meant depriving children of their critical ability, giving them only one possible of capability.  His attitude was to grind (ITA: frantumare) intellectually his children: he was given this name with a critical intent.

In this work one of the most aim of education was to level children in order to make them measurable: whatever education was, it should be measurable, in terms of quantity.
• The education system would not develop the mind of individual: notions were important, not interpretations.  They had to get used to the materiality around them.
• This work is famous because it really represents a critique to materialism.

• Mr Gradgrind grinds the intellectual gradient of his children.
He’s presenting his idea of teaching, a very basic education principle: depersonalising individuals is his aim, in order to have uncritical individuals who can only interpret facts, because only facts are fundamental in life, therefore they are the only important thing.
Facts = measurable notions.  Children are considered as vessels ready to be filled with notions.
• He’s depriving children of their sentimental side: he has no tenderness to his pupils.

• From line 7 Dickens starts describing the situation: concentration on the character’s look, that is not so much objective.
• It largely relies on some characteristics, adjectives relevant to this character (they are simply presented).
Whatever refers to this man is square as a brick, the fundamental particle of matter, of building ( building society on visible accomplishments.): exaggeration was a typical stylistic trait of Dickens.
• Voice restarts in line 23.


Hard Times (1854), book I, chapter 5

Here are presented the characteristics of Coketown, a very productive town, based on production with a very clear separation between classes: it has been built for industrial aim.  It’s symbolically presented.

Coketown is in fact a triumph of facts, it has nothing beautiful. It is square as much as Mrs Gradgrind and black smoke has covered the surface of buildings.  Unpleasant look of the town: the general condition is of filthy (those serpents of smoke never got uncoiled because the air was too filthy).

• Line 4-5: imagination.
• Line 6: simile (you don’t know the real intent of a savage).
• Coke: black colour.
• Line 10: hearing impact.
• The image of the elephant gives the idea of the purposelessness (ITA: autofinalismo) of the movement.

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Dickens, Charles - Hard Times