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I’ve always loved how Dickens had a real knack for bringing oddball characters to life and subtly infusing ‘state of the nation’ social commentary into his tales.Utilitarianism is the assumption that human beings act in a way that highlights their own self interest.
True, they are smart people in the factual sense but do not have the street smarts to survive.
Tom is a young man who, so fed up with his father’s strictness and repetition, revolts against him and leaves home to work in Mr. Tom, now out from under his fathers wing, he begins to drink and gamble heavily.
It is based on factuality and leaves little room for imagination.
Dickens provides three vivid examples of this utilitarian logic in Hard Times. Thomas Gradgrind, one of the main characters in the book, was the principal of a school in Coketown.
The opposition to this world of calculating selfishness is a travelling circus called ‘the horse-riding’ owned by Sleary.
Sissy Jupe, a product of the circus and the human fellowship that is engendered, is found ineducable by Gradgrind, whose dependent she becomes, but she has the inner assurance required to face Harthouse and compel him to leave the town.
The Grandgrind’s world falls apart when he discovers that he has ruined his daughter’s happiness and turned his son into a criminal.
A sub-plot concerns a working-man, Stephen Blackpool, a victim of the Gradgrind Bounderby system, and of young Gradgrind’s heartless criminality.
The ire in Dickens’ quill was often aimed at eviscerating the foibles of 19th century social injustices and Hard Times is no exception, tackling issues of the day such as the moral chasm between the rich and poor and the plight of factory workers in the age industrialisation.
Even the education system didn’t pass muster when it met Dickens’ jaundiced eye, seemingly attacked for its cold, rational and callous regard for young children’s minds.