Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hard Times

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Effect of Time on “Hard Times”


Adam Baumgardner


Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, was a representation of his time. Times were hard for children and adults alike. People who questioned what they were taught, often went through struggles and “hard times.” Eventually, the people who were looked down on were the ones who really helped those in need. Throughout the book, there are many ironic instances.


Thomas Gradgrind was a man built on the idea that facts and statistics were the only truth in life and all that was needed to have a healthy and productive life. The only truth to him was his very own vision of the truth. Simply put, Thomas Gradgrind strived for perfection. He strived to be perfect, which is what his philosophy was based on, and he strived to make his children perfect and not to wonder. He raised his children never to wonder, never to doubt facts and to never entertain any vice or fancy. As soon as Gradgrind’s children were old enough to absorb information, he was feeding them more lessons than they could handle. His children were brought up only knowing one way to live and that was the idea that if it is not fact, then it is false. He was emotionless, as were his children because they were brought up only knowing what they were taught by him. Eventually, as Gradgrind’s children became older, what they were taught began to turn sour in their minds. Tom, Grandgrind’s son, began to despise his father and all that his father had taught him and thus began to rebel. He took to smoking and gambling, which eventually led to his downfall. Tom had grown up to become a sycophantic, self-absorbed parasite. He had turned out the exact opposite as hoped.


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Thomas Gradgrind had raised his children never to wonder, but wondering intrigued them. Gradrgind had observed his children peeking into a circus tent because they were curious as to what was inside. The children were scolded for being curious, but seeds were planted into their minds of how there was more to life than what they had been taught. Furthermore, Tom, a usually well-behaved child, began to rebel after this incident. At first, he was rebelling in his mind, but eventually, after Tom moved out of his father’s house, so began his more visible rebellion. Once more, this is exactly what Mr. Gradgrind had tried to avoid while raising his children.


When Tom Gradgrind was in serious trouble because of his gambling debts, he confided in his sister, Louisa. Louisa was brought up to be emotionless and to not feel compassion, concern, or sympathy. But when her brother Tom was in need of his sister’s help, she, for the first time, felt love for her brother.


Josiah Bounderby was a fraud. He had lied about his childhood to make people feel sympathy for him. Josiah Bounderby was a middle aged factory owner who was quite wealthy. Bounderby looked at his workers as “hands.” To him, his workers were nothing more than robots. He felt that he was above them because of his wealth and his position. He thought that the penniless worker had no souls and no feelings. However, as Bounderby later is proved to be a fraud, it turns out that he was at the same level, if not lower, than the people he described that worked for him.


Sissy Jupe, a child who had been scolded for her inability to accept fact over fancy, was not approved by Mr. Gradgrind. He tried everything in his power to make Sissy Jupe more like him, but he could not because she had been raised by loving people who taught her that there is more to life than just statistics. After Sissy Jupe began living with the Grandgrind family, she began to rub off on them. After observing her and her values, the entire Gradgrind family saw that she was a genuinely caring and sympathetic girl and that’s when they started to notice that something about then was flawed; something in their life was missing. Sissy Jupe showed the Gradgrind family what it feels like to love and how it feels to care. A child who was scorned for being herself was teaching a supposed “perfect,” family values they did not possess and they were grateful.


Along with the affects of time on personality and the importance or lack there of for “facts vs. fancy,” there is many references of time to natural time and “man-made” time. Time in the Grindgrind family as well as Coketown is habitual, an example of this is when it is said that “Time went on in Coketown like its own machine.” For the story itself, “Hard Times” moves in natural time, and the seasonal change constitute “the only stand that ever was made against its direful uniformity.” The most obvious example of time passing in “natural time,” is that of the three sections to the story; titled “Sowing,” “Reaping,” and “Garnering.” The three titles represent agriculture and the planting and harvesting process, as they relate to the change of seasons.


Time, and its physical and mental effects on life is a major theme of “Hard Times.” It shows that no matter where your from, what time period you grew up or what life you’ve lived, each person has their own identity and it is easily affected by those of higher persuasions. Self-interest is the downfall of life and the life of those around you influence. The regularity of time in Coketown is changed only by that of the seasonal, or natural time that all get to enjoy and have no influence over.





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