Resarch essay on the classic novel by Charles Dickens, Hard Times.

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English 2319

April 4, 2001

Hard Times was originally written as a weekly serial in a journal called Household Words. It was written in 1854 to depict what life was like during the industrial revolution and reflect the distinctions between the classes during that era. The novel centres around a theme of a convincing criticism of utilitarianism, and every character in the novel plays a role of reinforcing this theme. Utilitarianism doctrine reflects that the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, should be the aim of all social and political institutions -- so it is ok for the working people to suffer, as long as the economy as a whole benefits. The novel uses its characters to expose the huge
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His characters are overly exaggerated to enable him to portray the theme of the novel.

The characters in Hard Times are not void of humanistic qualities but they come across as shallow. The reader only gets to uncover the first layer of their personality. Gissing reflects Dickens style when he says "I believe him to have been, what he always claimed to be, a very accurate painter of the human beings..." (Gissing). Gissing refers to Dickens as a 'painter ' of human beings, which is a very two-dimensional metaphor. Dickens characters are like a 'painting ' -- rather flat and straightforward. Most of his characters are not very complex and personify either good or evil. For example Gradgrind 's character reflected a rationalistic and self-serving philosophy on life and we did not see any change in this until toward the end of the story when he gave up his philosophy on fact and became politically active in helping the poor.

Dickens portrays characters in a particular way, he has a very narrow view of society and he places emphasis on class distinctions. "He has not a wide scope; he is always noticeably at his best in dealing with an ill-defined order of English folk, a class (or classes) characterized by dullness, prejudice, dogged individuality, and manners, to say the least, unengaging." (Gissing). Gissing thinks that even though we may remember the character 's names, that is all that they are to us. They have no depth and the characters do not leave a lasting
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