Significance of Emotional Education in Dickens' Novel, Hard Times

1911 Words8 Pages
Set in the ever shifting world of the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times begins with a description of a utilitarian paradise created by the illustrious and "eminently practical" Mr. Gradgrind, a world that follows a prescribed set of logically laid-out facts. However, readers soon realize that Gradgrind's modern utopia is only a simulacrum, belied by the damnation of lives devoid of elements that feed the heart and soul, as well as the mind. As the years progress, the weaknesses of Gradgrind's carefully constructed system become painfully apparent, especially in his children Louisa and Tom, and in the poor workers employed under one Mr. Josiah Bounderby, a wealthy factory owner who is a subscriber to Gradgrind's…show more content…
However, Louisa has not succumbed entirely to her father’s prohibition against wondering and imagining. Her humanity emerges gradually as the novel progresses, as the result of her warm inner fire created by her secret fancies in otherwise her lonely, mechanized existence. As her failing and loveless marriage to the greedy and arrogant "bully of humility" Bounderby takes its toll, Louisa reaches out, first to Stephen Blackpool, an oppressed factory worker, and then to James Harthouse, a cynical, amoral, and thrill-seeking aristocrat who tries to seduce her. Here, the long denial of two vital human forces, emotion and imagination, causes an explosive release of containment in Louisa, inflicting her with adulterous yearnings that drives her to the brink of madness and to an eventual emotional breakdown at her father's mercy. Nothing in Louisa's previous education has prepared her to handle her emerging passions. She saves herself from disgrace just in time, helped by the friendship of Sissy Jupe, who represents the wisdom of the heart ― a wisdom Louisa has never known. In the end, Louisa's true nature finally overcomes her father's strictly scientific education, and she ends up as a mature, generous, and humane young woman that dedicates her life to helping those less fortunate than she. Tom, Louisa's only beacon in her completely barren life, is another dismal and pathetic product of the Gradgrind philosophy of education. Self-centered and insensitive

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