Gradgrind sees marriage as a contract he wants statistically the best person for his child. Louisa knows she does not and cannot love Mr Bounderby but she does what she has been taught to and looks at the facts ignoring her feelings. She is ‘satisfied to accept his proposal’. “What do I know…of tastes and fancies; of aspirations and affections…what escape have I had from problems that could be demonstrated and realities that could be grasped?” Louisa does not know about ‘fancies’ she has never been able to ‘escape’ problems. She cannot work out that the marriage is the wrong thing to do and is going to cause her great upset and problems. Dickens is making it clear to the reader that facts are taken to the extreme and because they are all the children know, they set themselves up for an unhappy life.
“You have trained me so well, that I never dreamed a child’s dream” The word ‘train’ emphasises the point that the children are not taught. Gradgrind does not know how to teach them. This also shows that Louisa herself knows she has never been a ‘child’ but Gradgrind sees this as ‘his success’. The futures of the children are not good. Louisa finds someone she loves but because she does not know how to deal with feelings, she can’t work out what to do. “Would you have doomed me, at any time, to the frost and blight that have hardened and spoil me?”
Louisa has realised that it’s because of her father’s theories that she is unhappy and her life is a mess. “What a much better and happier creature I should have been this day.” If she had experienced feelings before, she may not have made the same mistakes and would have known what to do. This makes Gradgrind listen and think about his theories. “There is wisdom of the head and that there is wisdom of the heart…I have supposed the head to be all-sufficient. It may not be all sufficient. ”
Gardgrind has seen the effect of his theories on his own child and has realised he was wrong. He has realised that if she was allowed to ‘fancy’ when she was younger she would not be in the mess she’s in. This makes the reader very clear that it is because of Gradgrind that the children’s futures are not happy and fulfilled. Dickens is also showing that Gradgrind was so set in his ways that it took his own children’s lives to be totally destroyed before he would listen and realise he was wrong.
Tom has also been damaged by Gradgrind he uses facts all through his life. “So many people are employed in situations of trust; so many people, out of so many will be dishonest.” Tom uses a fact to pardon himself for robbing the bank where he worked. Gradgrind sees that teaching his children to always look at the facts to decide on things has turned against him. His own son has broken the law and it is essentially Gradgrinds fault. Dickens is showing that not only has not allowing the children to ‘fancy’ or have an imagination damaged them but filling them with facts and teaching the children to use facts has also had a negative effect on them. Bitzer, the model pupil, works at the bank and wants Tom’s job. He surveys the facts and finds out Tom was responsible for the robbery and captures him. Gradgrind wants him to let Tom go and not tell any one what he has done.
“Bitzer…have you a heart?” Gradgrind wants Bitzer to pity his family but Bitzer doesn’t know what these feelings are and doesn’t have them. “No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood, can doubt that I have a heart.” All Bitzer knows is facts. The reader realises that not only has Gradgrind damaged other people and destroyed their lives he has also caused problems for himself and his family.
The only child able to lead a happy and fulfilled life is Sissy. This demonstrates that the education system is damaging as although Sissy tried to fit in and adjust to it she couldn’t. She never turned into the type of child Gradgrind wanted. Although the education system did cause her upset. Her dad ran away as he felt that it was because of him and who he was, that she couldn’t fit in. However because of Sissy’s presence in the Gradgrind household she did save Jane Gradgrind from following in her sibling’s footsteps.
Louisa: “What a beaming face you have Jane.” Jane: “I am sure it must be Sissy’s doing.” Dickens is making sure the reader is aware that the only reason Jane is happy is because Sissy has had an influence on her. Sissy has let her have fun and ‘fancy’ behind Gradgrind’s back. Dickens ensures that we are aware that the futures of the children were damaged because of the education system. Dickens uses many different techniques in the portrayal of the education system. The structure of the novel is significant. The separate book titles within the novel represent a gardening process. He is suggesting that a natural process is being distorted. He is saying if you sow the seeds wrong, look what they are like when you harvest them. Dickens is suggesting Gradgrind is teaching the children the wrong things and look at how their adult lives turn out; unhappy and destroyed.
He also uses significant chapter titles. ‘One thing needful’ refers to Gradgrind’s obsession with facts. However because Dickens then presents him in a negative way within the chapter the reader understands that Dickens does not agree with him and the chapter title is ironic. ‘Another thing needful’ suggests Gradgrind has finally learnt facts aren’t everything. It also provides continuity throughout the novel as it is very similar to the first chapter title and clearly shows Gradgrind has progressed. Through the second chapter title; ‘murdering the innocents’, Dickens is getting his point across about how he feels early on in the novel. He is clearly suggesting that the education system is destroying the children who are vulnerable and haven’t done any thing wrong. In the second chapter Dickens uses word associated with war to imply there is a war waging against childhood. This suggests to the reader Gradgrind is totally against childhood altogether.
In the first chapter Dickens uses repetition of the words ‘facts’, ‘nothing else’ and ‘the emphasis was helped by’. This shows how important facts are to Mr Gradgrind and it makes the reader think, right from the start of the novel, that he is obsessed with facts. The repetition also becomes quite boring; this means the reader gets the impression that Mr Gradgrind is a boring person. Dickens also uses exaggeration and caricature, like the one of Gradgrind been ‘square’, to get his point across. Throughout ‘Hard Times’ Dickens creates imagery through language. This enables the reader to build up a better understanding about what Dickens wants them to think.
Irony is used throughout the novel. This provides some humour but at the same time allows Dickens to make his point through deliberate contradiction. “They had been made to run to the lecture room…a large blackboard with a dry ogre chalking ghastly white figures on it.” The word ‘ogre’ provides irony as ogres are mythical creatures not facts. “Not that they knew, by name or nature, anything about an ogre. Fact forbid! I use the word to express a monster in a lecturing castle…taking childhood captive.” Here Dickens voice appears directly in the narrative in an attempt to make sure the reader understands what point he was making when he used the word ‘ogre’. Throughout ‘Hard Times’ Dickens’ voice intrudes into the novel.
“Rather overdone, M’Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught.” This shows Dickens’ frustration with the quality of teaching. He feels that if teachers knew a few less facts then they might actually teach the children about the facts they do know, or allow them to imagine things and explore fiction, rather than just getting them to recite lots of facts which they don’t understand and mean nothing to them.
Through the authors intervention the reader becomes aware that ‘Hard Times’ is not just a novel. Dickens feels strongly about the education system and is frustrated at those who feel it is healthy and of value to children. ‘Hard Times’ could be said to be a satirical portrayal of education as Dickens scrutinises the system and picks out every bad aspect of it and uses irony to help him do this. He makes the reader see the bad things about the education system, and makes them look at the effects of it has on the children.
The education system in ‘Hard Times’ is presented in a very negative way. It is shown to ‘damage’ the children and not actually teach them anything of any importance. Dickens uses many different techniques to make the reader aware of how bad the system is and also makes his own thoughts clear. I think Dickens would like to have seen education exercising the children’s imaginations, allowing them to experience feelings and learn what they mean and how to deal with them.
He would have liked to have seen the children actually been taught and allowed a greater freedom to do other things like play and imagine, rather than just reciting facts. Dickens makes it very clear throughout the novel that he feels fun should be on the curriculum and children should enjoy going to school and learning; they should be allowed to be children and enjoy childish things. From the futures Dickens created for the characters in ‘Hard Times’ we see that he felt if the curriculum was changed people would lead better, happier, fulfilled lives.