Hard Times – Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, a phenomenal author was born into earth with riches. All of these riches were taken away from him when some ‘hard times’ happened in his life his inspired him to write this book. Dickens Father was in prison for most of his life and Dickens and his sister were the only ones who didn’t belong in a cell. They were left on their own and left to work. Born in 1812 and dying in 1870, Dickens lived a good and fulfilling life. He married what he thought was an amazing woman and later went on to have many children with her.

Dickens and his wife later split up after his secret and dark affair that was kept from his wife for many years. His fame grew and became more famous over time. This is one of Dickens most famous novels ever written; it was made from memories of the Industrial Revolution, Dickens views on the education back when he was a child and the very poor working conditions in factories. The novel is set in a rough town, which Dickens in the novel called, ‘coke-town’; now known as Preston Today. He visited Preston again during writing his novel to get the feel of ‘Coke-town’ again.

The industrial revolution that Dickens wrote about was all across the nation. The term ‘industrial revolution’ is used to describe several things that changed in these times. 19th century most people lived in the country side. The living conditions weren’t exactly first class but they had their own cottages with access to a lot of supplies of water. Coming up to the middle of the century many people started to live in these new industrialised towns. People in the middle of the century were moving in so fast that there was simply not enough housing for everyone to live in eventually, there was little space but new houses were built quickly.

This was because of the only work available in Dickens day was working in some form of factory. It was extremely difficult working in those factories and the working conditions were very poor and disgusting, they had very shifts per day. There were no exceptions for being late or ill, just no pay. The conditions were disgraceful. Not clean whatsoever, the children were forced to do all of the gruesome and hardest work. Everyone had a really bad wage for their job. Children had to work in dirty abysmal factories like this because their were no schools and poor education which was one of the biggest dislike for Charles.

Schools only started to appear in 1840’s and 1850’s. The minimal education started in 1870’s. The teachers believed in teaching facts only with no opinions or discussions allowed, poetry seemed to not be important for example. Children were never taught creative things such as art or drama. The children were treated as numbers not people. Gradgrind from the ‘Hard Times’ novel by Dickens was a normal teacher in a normal school in those days. Dickens tried to show in this novel that education was focused on teaching facts and memorising them.

Hard Times’ is the novel written by Dickens in which this essay is discussing which we have been learning about in lesson. In chapter 1 of ‘Hard Times’ we learn what Grad grinds classroom is like. We learn that it is a very plain and boring classroom and also very simple, nothing on the walls no colour or art or posters or anything creative that wasn’t pure facts. There wouldn’t have been any curtains and the colours on the wall was explained to be dismal colours such as dark colours for example grey. They would of been bare, once again no picture on the wall, no carpet on the floor or wallpaper.

Other than chairs and tables there was no other furniture so the room would have seemed empty. It would have been monotonous, no variety in colours, quite repetitive and dull and dreary like a dark cellar. Dickens also describes it as a vault which suggest a tomb, a prison base (trapped and locked up) and a catastrophic scene. An uncomfortable room. We also learn about Gradgrinds looks; Charles describes him as repulsive and an ugly person. A scary and huge person is something that also matches with his personality.

Dickens has made this name up on purpose to suggest these things as well as others that we learn about later on but grind is to crush something, make a change to something or make it smooth and sharp which is just like he is trying to do with the children. This contrasts to how Gradgrind tries to get rid of all the rough edges and smoothen them out just like if you grind something.

Gradgrinds forefinger is ‘square’ which suggests it is a block like a brick so it must be strong. Also ‘square’ refers to mathematics and then goes back to facts. His forehead is a ‘square wall’ which comes back to the bricks being strong so nothing can run past it. This also suggests that he hasn’t got an open mind so if anyone else has a different idea it won’t get past the brick wall. Square again is simple and boring. Gradgrinds eyes are described as ‘two dark caves’ this suggests that his eyes are sunken in and are black which has a sense of evil.

His mouth is ‘wide, thin and hard set’. This means only one thing that he always has a hardest miserable face with thin lips; some would describe him as sour faced. His wide mouth also would mean it takes up half of his face. ‘Inflexible, dry and dictatorial’ is what his voice is described as. Dickens wanted us to think his voice was inflexible and dry because it’s so he doesn’t have a variety or flexible choice of words just repeating facts all the time. Dictatorial means that his voice is in charge, a powerful and strong voice; tyrannical.

This suggests that Gradgrind is in charge and not letting anyone else take over he is the top person in school. His hair ‘bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs’ the image here suggests stuck out hair on the side of his head like a tree, bristled is kind of spiky sharp things and a bristled brush is something to untangle hair so his hair must be strong and like wires. Dickens described his head as ‘all covered in knobs, like the crust of a plum pie’ which can only suggest that he has warts which are ugly things and a presence of evil as witches are known to having them. Neck cloth, trained to take him by the throat’ which suggests he is strangling himself, this is a violent image. When dickens says ‘as if the head was scarcely warehouse room for the hard facts stored inside’ this means a big space means he has a lot of facts and the fact they are hard is strong and difficult; once again this is a violent image. The repetition of the word ‘square’ is done to make an emphasis on a boring mathematical shape. A sense of boring this, boring that.

The children are described as ‘little vessels then and there arranged in order ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them’ this tells us that Gradgrind want the children all lined up and all in the right position and once this is right then they are ready to sail away. In chapter 2 we are introduced to Grad grinds personality even more. He is firstly described as a ‘cannon loaded with muzzle’ this metaphor suggests he is fiery. He is loaded with facts and ready to fire them at the students. This also suggests these facts are dangerous and will harm the children.

It says in the text that he is ‘prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood’. This literal image suggests that Gradgrind is willing to knock the children’s imagination right out of them. Gradgrind decides to act big and picks on one of the new girls. ‘Girl number twenty, I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl? ‘ this tells us that Gradgrind is self centred, he is the top of everyone and they are all smaller than him; children don’t matter to him.

This quote also suggests he wants someone else to ask her or answer hi. He is seemed to be too good to talk to her. Girl number twenty’ is sissy as we learn. She replies, ‘sissy Jupe sir’. We learn here immediately that she is different. No-one else in the school would of replied directly they would of known best not to. She is also described as ‘blushing, standing up and curtseying’. This tells us about her personality that she is polite and respectful. She brings a sense of humour as well. This blushing it says she is doing suggests she is embarrassed. Gradgrind shouts and tells her’ sissy is not a name. Don’t call yourself sissy… ‘ this only suggests that Gradgrind is controlling her.

Also he is dictating what she is able to call herself. Sissy replies ‘its father as calls me that’. This response implies that sissy is confused. She has thought for maybe a few years that’s right and now she is told she can’t call herself that. We also learned that she speaks in a ‘trembling voice’ because she must be frightened and embarrassed arguing with the head teacher on your first day. Gradgrind once again thinking he knows best tells her off by saying ‘then he has no business to do that, tell him he must not’. This quote shows arrogance in another level.

He is so outrageous here because he is not only correcting sissy, he is now correcting her dad as well. He has now taken his insults and remarks outside of school. I seemed to be that everyone around him isn’t right. This situation and his behaviour gets worse when he says ‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse’. This tells us he is a show off and is constantly trying to make sissy look bad so he is right. We then get a description of sissy. She is ‘dark eyed and dark haired’ and ‘received a deeper and more luxurious colour from the sun’.

Dickens wants us to see her as a beautiful young girl and is dark skinned which further suggests she is different to everyone else. Gradgrind picks his star pupil Bitzer to define a horse and replies in detail, a dictionary response. This description of a horse tells us that he is intelligent but knows ridiculous facts. He knows definitions of some random words but this is because he has been influenced by Gradgrind. He knows these things and spits them out just like a robot or a programme. We also get a contrast and find out what Bitzer looks like.

He is described as ‘light eyed and light haired’ and with ‘little colour’ and that his skin is ‘unwholesomely deficient in natural tinge’. This makes him ugly and plain just like the classroom. Compared to sissy he would look unwell and cold, maybe not even full of life. ‘Cold eyes’ as dickens describes which relies on his scary unwell look. Now we have learnt about these three characters there is the school inspector to tlalk about which is another person like Gradgrind. The inspector is described as a ‘mighty man’. This suggests two things, he is strong and broody and physically fit or suggests he is powerful like a ‘mighty’ king. At cutting and drying’ tells us that his occupation is making shoes. He is not qualified to be a school inspector but he is a wealthy man that thinks he is above everyone. ‘Cutting and drying’ is a process of making leather. The suitability isn’t right for him to inspect a school. He just thinks he knows best because he has money. The inspector was also described as a ‘pugilist’. This is another violent image. Pugilist is old English for boxer. He is ‘always with a system to force down the throat like a bolus’. ‘Bolus’ is a big pill they use to have. It was like a disk for a paracetamol.

They use to have to force them down their throat. This quote also has a simile in it. ‘like a bolus’, he has substituted a volus with facts and forcing them down the children’s through making them choke. These words are described as fistic phraseology. This again relates back to him boxing and fighting because this is fighting talk so he is fighting with facts instead of his boxing gloves. This inspector is also described as an ‘ugly customer’. This then tells us two things about him, his personality is ugly and his appearance is ugly. An ugly person all over.

Other violent images are related to him further on are ‘left, stop, exchange, counter, bore’ which is fighting terminology which relates back to his boxing. This quote makes him seem like he works as a machine. The inspector then goes on to ask the class whether they would ‘paper the wall with representations of horses’ he believes that you should not. This is because they are not really there or the real thing so therefore it’s joking you it doesn’t matter. Also it shows imagination which the inspector is against and always trying to knock out this imagination out of the children.

If there were these representations it could distract the kids away from the facts which in his mind is a bad thing. Sissy again is one of whom which to challenge his view by saying ‘yes’. She believes that these representations are good things and they are pleasant pretty things not bad and boring. We learn now that sissy is still polite but that she likes these things, she is her own person and doesn’t copy anyone else. She shows that she has imagination and loves the fact of having flowery carpet because it’s pleasant. We learn she is respectful about expressing her view towards the inspector. She behaves well but still stands up to him. She uses the word ‘fancy’ which means imagine towards the inspector. We learnt before that she has imagination but now she is telling us and towards the inspector this must be a shock. If she imagines this is terrible. And the inspector sees this as the opposite of facts, the enemy. The inspector is all for facts. Dickens humiliates the inspector and Gradgrind. ‘Fact, fact, fact’ Gradgrind repeats. They are so obsessed with facts they repeat it and show emphasis.