Charles Dickens aimed to convey messages about social problems in his writing and was a social reformer. Hard Times, first published in 1854, is a prime example of his ideas that with the introduction of industrialisation, humans qualities would be driven out and be reached with an utilitarian philosophy â€“ where there was no place for fancy. Dickens criticises this.
He believed that each human was different. He believed that people required a balance between fact and fancy to have a ‘healthy’ effect on society. Dickens uses contrasting pairs to show what he approves and disapproves of.
One of the contrasting pairs used by Dickens to criticise utilitarianism is Cecilia Sissy Jupe and Bitzer.
Their appearance is completely different. In the classroom, Sissy is described to be a “dark eyed and dark haired” girl when the sunlight hits her, but when the same ray of light hits Bitzer, he is “light hair and light eyed”. It is as if the utilitarian approach to education has sucked Bitzer’s life, making him seem unhealthy.
They also contrast in their answers in the classroom. When asked to define a horse, Sissy is “thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.” It is obvious that she is not used to such as matter-of-fact way of education. However, when Bitzer is asked the same question, he says almost mechanically,
“Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four
grinden, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, tooâ€¦”
Dickens disapproves of the utilitarian education approach, as Bitzer seems to have no imagination, no life, and no childhood. He seems to a robot, just giving definitions when asked. Unlike Sissy, Bitzer only knows the ‘utilitarian lifestyle’, and therefore does not have a clue about the fanciful side of life.
It would also have to be said that Sissy is having difficulty adjusting to the utilitarian lifestyle, as she answers questions from the heart.
“‘What is the first principle of this science’â€¦ the answer, ‘To do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.'”
But I believe that if Bitzer was taken off to the circus, then he would also not be able to cope with the laughter, excitement and with the people at the circus.
Dickens approves of Sissy’s values, whereas he does not like the way Bitzer has been raised as a mini-adult in a “practical” way, taking away his human qualities and replacing them with mechanics.
Another pair that Dickens uses to disapprove of the utilitarian life is through the acts and results of the parents, the “eminently practical” Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, and the circus clown Mr. Signor Jupe.
Mt. Gradgrind believes that children, including his pupils and children, are “little vessels” ready to be filled with “imperial gallons of facts.” On the other hand, according to Sissy, Mr. Jupe was a loving and understanding father that appreciated the importance of the fact and fancy balance.
Mr. Gradgrind only wants his children to know about the factual side of life whereas Mr. Jupe wanted his daughter to have a balanced life. This is evident as Jupe put Sissy in a school.
It seems as though Gradgrind does not care about his children’s lives. For example, he marries off Louisa without consulting her feeling, because according to Gradgrind feelings are not “eminently practical.” This is completely different to the fathering of Jupe. Jupe, ran away from her daughter for her benefit, as he did not want to live with a clown who could not producing laughter; a failure.
The effects of fathering can be seen in the attitudes of their offspring. Tom Gradgrind, can wait to leave home in Book One, calling it a “Jaundice Jail” â€“ unhealthy and diseased. Louisa does not care about her life anymore, and compares it to a fire. On the other hand, Sissy is caring and pleasant.
Dickens is appalled at Coketown, and describes it in disgust. He condemns the architecture of the town.
“It was a town of machinery and tall chimneysâ€¦ The jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail, the town-hall might have been either, or both, or anything else, for anything that appeared to the contrary in the graces of their construction.”
The town is monotonous; featureless. It is “severally workful.”
Dickens also disapproves of the town river, saying that it “ran purple with ill-smelling dye.” He is not only attacking that unnaturalness of the town, but saying it is not environmentally friendly.
Coketown is described as a boring town, with roads that are all the same, the people all the same and the building made all of “red brick.”
On the other hand, Dickens describes the circus favourably. It is totally fanciful, and not one bit “eminently practical”.
It holds lots of different characters, all of which are friendly and emotional, including Mr. Sleary, who’s philosophy is to “make the betht of uth: not the wurtht!” All the people in the circus use colloquial words, saying that Dickens is indicating that not all people need to proper and matter-of-fact.
Dickens approves of the life of fancy more than the life of fact as he describes things such as the circus in a favourable light, unlike people such as Mr. Gradgrind, Bounderby and M’Choakumchild.
Dickens tries to make the reader think that the best way of bringing up children is to give them a balance of fact and fancy in their life. This is being threatened because of the industrial revolution. His method of criticism is effective at times, such as when Sissy moves in with the Gradgrinds, she is lost of colour and seems unhealthy.