How Does Dickens Present the Conflict of Fact and Fancy in 'Hard Times'. - Grade B

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Analyse Dickens presentation of the conflict between fact and fancy in ‘Hard Times’

The novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens epitomises the social, political and economic values of Victorian England. Dickens attacks the conditions and exploitation of the workers by the factory owners, the social class divisions that favour dishonesty over honesty depending on the hierarchy of class status. He finds the utilitarian (fact) school of thought where facts and statistic’s are emphasised at the expense of imagination, art, feelings and wonder (fancy) emerging during this period disconcerting. Hard Times is divided into three separate books entitled: ‘Sowing’, ‘Reaping’ and ‘Garnering’. These sections exemplify the biblical concept of
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Stephen suffers the destiny to die for Tom’s crime of stealing money thus becoming a victim of the harshness of the philosophy of Fact.

Dickens uses minor characters throughout his novel Hard Times to further illustrate what he believes to be a suffocating method of teaching in his continued argument about fact and fancy. The readership is introduced to the character Mr M’Choakumchild, whose name is used satirically to reflect the choking of the children in Gradgrind’s school. Bitzer, primarily Gradgrind’s favourite student, encompasses the biblical reference of ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ as he becomes the very symbol of evil in the education system in which poor children are used as fodder for industrial profit. Dickens believed that these schools restricted the children’s imagination, emotions and freedom, training them as factory workers for the emerging industries.

Dickens uses description and symbolism to illustrate the seriousness of ‘fact’ and lack of ‘fancy’. In the beginning of the novel Dickens starts by describing the classroom as “plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school”. Dickens satirizes the classroom by calling it a “Vault” which is an allusion to a grave or catacomb. He extends his illustration to the setting of his novel in a fictional northern industrial town called Coketown. The name “Coketown” is symbolic as it is a term for a mineral used in the process of iron making. Therefore, the town

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