A Research Hypocrisy in Hard Times

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 division between the rich and the poor of England and Dickens wanted to focus on the heartless views of the middle and upper classes. Hard Times has been viewed in varied and even conflicting ways by different critics.

One critic of Dickens’s work was E.M. Forster who saw Dickens characters as ‘lovable’ but merely ‘two-dimensional’. Forster also stated that they were drawn in detail, but with no convincing relationship to the real world, and with no inner life. In my opinion, the majority of the characters in Hard Times are ‘flat’ as oppose to ’round’ characters. The definition of a ‘flat’ character for the purpose of this essay is one that is lacking depth and maintains those characteristics throughout the story.

The characters in this novel are developed to reflect different aspects of humanity. Dickens uses his characters and their personalities to depict his moral themes. For example Tom Gradgrind Jr. represents all that Dickens felt was evil. Tom is only interested in looking after number one. He even goes so far as to be willing to sacrifice his sister (Louisa) to better his own social situation when he wants her to marry Boundarby (the rich banker). His philosophy of life revolves around rationalism, self-interest and fact. His father raised his children according to this philosophy, and does not allow them to engage in ‘fanciful’ activities.

The circus people represent fun, fancy and imagination. They are not based on fact. “They cared so little for plain Fact, these people, and were in the advanced state of degeneracy on the subject …” (Dickens). Gradgrind looked down on people who did not believe the facts — he could not understand why people would not accept the facts. “The wretched ignorance with which Jupe clung to this consolation rejecting the superior comfort of knowing, on a sound arithmetical basis, that her father was an unnatural vagabond, filled Mr. Gradgrind with pity” (Dickens).

Sissy Jupe is a member of Sleary’s circus and she represents all the fancy free impulses that Gradgrind’s children were not allowed to cultivate. She represents the opposite of everything that Gradgrind stands for. She remains untarnished. In a conversation with Louisa relating her feelings about her schooling, she talks about how she just does not understand how Mr. M’Choakumchild could feel that if twenty-five people were starving to death and a million were not, that could be described as prosperous (Dickens). Sissy was optimistic and refused to believe facts — she instead lived in hope as depicted when she talked about the return of her father. “That girl believed her father had not deserted her; she lived in hope that he would come back and in faith that he would be made the happier by remaining where she was” (Dickens).

The names Dickens gives to his character’s give hints as to what their personalities are like, for example; Gradgrind (think of grinding facts); Sissy (which implies passiveness and weakness) and Mr. M’Choakumchild (which implies unpleasant personality ie. ‘Choke a child’). Each character is instilled with designated qualities either good or bad. They are not overly dynamic to say the least. Dickens characters in this novel, do not go through significant growth or change. He uses his characters to give us examples of the extremes of human behavior. 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 impression. “Dickens gives us types not individuals; types, moreover, of the most abstract kind, something like the figures in the old Moralities: embodied hypocrisy, selfishness, pride and so on, masking as everyday mortals” (Gissing).

“Dickens method of characterization does not allow for the delicate probing of psychological states of mind; rather its success depends on the artists resourcefulness in creating consistent and empathetically defined patterns of individualized responses to external circumstances…” (Johnson). Throughout many of Dickens stories, his characters maintain similar traits. Examples of this are Sissy who falls into the category of the lost children — in her case, she was abandoned by her father. Gradgrind takes on the characterization of the self-infatuated parent who raises his children according to strict moral guidelines. Louisa resembles the passionate woman who exhibits a divided nature — she marries a man she despises and finally admits she may be in love with another man. Louisa is also envious of Sissy’s ability to demonstrate such passion when she talks about her father.

In conclusion, I would tend to agree that Forster’s statement is accurate. Dickens’ life and his family and friends served as a backdrop for a great many of his characters and as a result do tend to be very two-dimensional. His unhappy childhood, and a life of poverty, colored his view of life and the characters he developed to portray it. My interpretation of his message which he uses his writing to convey is that while logic is useful and important, it cannot override the need for compassion in our life. Through the use of his two-dimensional predictable characters, he achieves a most effective way of expressing this viewpoint.

Calculate the price
Make an order in advance and get the best price
Pages (550 words)
*Price with a welcome 15% discount applied.
Pro tip: If you want to save more money and pay the lowest price, you need to set a more extended deadline.
We know how difficult it is to be a student these days. That's why our prices are one of the most affordable on the market, and there are no hidden fees.

Instead, we offer bonuses, discounts, and free services to make your experience outstanding.
How it works
Receive a 100% original paper that will pass Turnitin from a top essay writing service
step 1
Upload your instructions
Fill out the order form and provide paper details. You can even attach screenshots or add additional instructions later. If something is not clear or missing, the writer will contact you for clarification.
Pro service tips
How to get the most out of your experience with MyhomeworkGeeks
One writer throughout the entire course
If you like the writer, you can hire them again. Just copy & paste their ID on the order form ("Preferred Writer's ID" field). This way, your vocabulary will be uniform, and the writer will be aware of your needs.
The same paper from different writers
You can order essay or any other work from two different writers to choose the best one or give another version to a friend. This can be done through the add-on "Same paper from another writer."
Copy of sources used by the writer
Our college essay writers work with ScienceDirect and other databases. They can send you articles or materials used in PDF or through screenshots. Just tick the "Copy of sources" field on the order form.
See why 20k+ students have chosen us as their sole writing assistance provider
Check out the latest reviews and opinions submitted by real customers worldwide and make an informed decision.
Business and administrative studies
excellent work
Customer 452773, March 9th, 2023
Criminal Justice
This has been the greatest help while I am recovering from an illness. Thank your team so much.
Customer 452671, May 2nd, 2021
Business and administrative studies
Customer 452773, February 23rd, 2023
Business and administrative studies
excellent, got a 100
Customer 452773, May 17th, 2023
Looks great and appreciate the help.
Customer 452675, April 26th, 2021
Business and administrative studies
Thank you for your hard work and help
Customer 452773, February 21st, 2023
Business and administrative studies
excellent job
Customer 452773, March 12th, 2023
Thank you for your hard work and help.
Customer 452773, February 13th, 2023
Human Resources Management (HRM)
excellent, great job
Customer 452773, June 19th, 2023
Leadership Studies
excellent job
Customer 452773, July 28th, 2023
Criminal Justice
The paper was not accused of plagiarism and was written very well. I will let you know the grade once it is graded. Thank you
Customer 452671, April 26th, 2021
Leadership Studies
excellent job as always
Customer 452773, September 2nd, 2023
Customer reviews in total
Current satisfaction rate
3 pages
Average paper length
Customers referred by a friend
15% OFF your first order
Use a coupon FIRST15 and enjoy expert help with any task at the most affordable price.
Claim my 15% OFF Order in Chat

Sometimes it is hard to do all the work on your own

Let us help you get a good grade on your paper. Get professional help and free up your time for more important courses. Let us handle your;

  • Dissertations and Thesis
  • Essays
  • All Assignments

  • Research papers
  • Terms Papers
  • Online Classes
Live ChatWhatsApp