“Facts, Facts and Facts!!”
This is all, that you get to hear throughout this novel. Dickens starts this novel by concentrating on the word, FACTS and depicts the Utilitarian thinking of the 19th century England, which was undergoing an Industrial change with of course, an ideological change as well.
The novel is based on Industrialism (Capitalist & Workers relationship), Utilitarianism (pure rationality and factuality, devoid of any human sentiments or emotions), position of women, exploitation of the working class and the idea of Trade-Union. Being an industrialist novelist, Dickens depicts the bleak life of the people of “Coketown”, a town metaphorically as well as objectively, full of Industries, smoking chimneys, monotonous lives of workers and devoid of any humaneness or fancy.
One thing that is central to the novel, is the Gradgrindery system of education. It is that inhuman system, in which, children are not seen as being different individuals with humane qualities, but rather, as “pitchers” which are to be filled with facts. They are not addressed by their names, but with the roll numbers allotted to them and as automatons, being modeled up to get ready to work in factories as “Hands”.
The dehumanizing aspect of Utilitarian theory, is what, Dickens is critiquing in the novel. A philosophy which rejects any imagination or fancy, and is rigid & bleak like its bricked-up factories surrounded by black smoke. Through the character of Sissy Jupe and Circus, Dickens introduces the idea of FANCY in the novel and give the qualities of humaneness to her character. The failure of this inhumane Utilitarian system, is depicted through the characters- Mr. Gradgrind, Mrs. Gradgrind, Bounderby, Louisa Gradgrind, Tom Gradgrind and Stephen Blackpool.
Though, I really found the novel very monotonous and boring story-wise, but the Marxist criticism of this novel, is what, that makes it interesting. The fun and intrigue is not in the plot, but in the way it has been presented and being a literature student, for me, it lies in the deciphering of beneath the line meanings of the text!
Thus, I would recommend a Marxist reading of this novel, so that, you don’t find it “hard” to read “Hard Times” 😛
You can watch its movie here-