CharlesDickens' novel, Hard Times, is a story of two struggles--the struggle of
fact versus imagination and the struggle between two classes. It takes place in
Coketown, and industrial-age English city. The novel is divided into two sections. One
deals with the struggle of upper class members of society and their struggle to learn the
value of imagination. The other involves a working class man who is trapped by those in
that upper class who trap him in a dreary existence.
Thomas Gradgrind, the father of Louisa, Tom, and June not only stresses facts in
the classroom in which he teaches, but also at home to his family. Thomas has brought
up his children to know nothing but facts. Everything is black and white,right or wrong--
nothing in between. He discourages such fanciful motions as going to the circus or
having flowered carpet. Everyone knows, one cannot have flowered carpet. One would
trample all over them and they would end up dying.
In Hard Times, two classes are relevant in Coketown. The upper class, which
were few in numbers, are dominant over the middle class, which is larger in numbers.
Stephen Blackpool represents the working class. He is a warm-hearted man trapped in
thes run down society. He feels he deserves this mediocre lifestyle. Blackpool was
originally employed under Bounderby, but is fired for standing up for his beliefs. This
type of behavior was totally unacceptable during the period of time as it involved
imagination and independance. Bounderby portrayed himself as a self-made man,when
in fact, he had eveything handed to him with a silver spoon. His mother gave him the
very best of everything, including a wonderful education. This demonstrates that the
upper and middle classes were not just two different classes, but two different worlds.
The book concludes with the upper class characters being forced into accepting that
something other than facts exist. Thomas Gradgrind has given up his philosophy of facts
by allowing his daughter back into his house.
In conclusion, the entire Gridgrind system of facts proves to be a failure, and he
learns that emotions and imagination are the controlling forces in everyones life.
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