“Hard times” is a critical novel of utilitarianism doctrine. According to this conception, associated with name of Jeremy Bentham, utility is the parameter of all human values. In this novel, Dickens stresses the dehumanising effects of an industrial society based on a materialistic view of life.
The main character is Thomas Gradgrind, a man of realities. He represents utilitarianism, the negation of every form of imagination. His name is formed by the word “grind” that means “mechanical, tedious”.
Mr Gradgrind feels good in his square world of facts and figures, without understanding that he is trapped in a box: a limited conception of life.
This character represents the industrial society that doesn’t left space to dreams, feelings and imagination: the most important things are production and material happiness.
Moreover, Mr Gradgrind is the expression of Victorian educational system. He is the headmaster of a school in Coketown and he thinks children are pitchers that have to be filled with notions.
On the other hand, Blitzer, the favourite Gradgrind’s pupil, is the consequence of an educational system based on utilitarianism: he is an emotionless boy, a little pitcher that contains many facts and figures.
At the end of the novel Gradgrind understands how his world is limited: reason cannot explain everything and human being is feelings, imagination and intuition too.