Take a passage from “Hard Times” and explain why and how this paragraph is important to the key themes of the novel.
At the beginning of Chapter 2, Thomas Gradgrind is described as “A man of realities. A man of fact and calculations”. (2). Mr. Gradgrind as a character alone is symbolic of what Charles Dickens opposes in the context of the Industrialist Age, viewing the education system to see only cold hard facts and calculations as having great importance and nothing else. To reinforce this idea of caring only for the facts, Mr. Gradgrind asks one of his students, Bitzer to give his definition of a horse to which he replied with monotonous dialogue: “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth … Hoofs hard …” (5). Dickens, like other revolutionary writers, believed that there was more to life and goes on to expose the flawed system of education by exploiting its narrow-mindedness and total disregard for things beyond the realm of facts.
Before this definition is given, we are presented with Sissy Jupe, a young girl who is of a lower class in society yet she’s the perfect model of how Dickens believes people should be. Sissy’s journey throughout the novel shows key characteristics that Dicken’s favors such as having wonder and curiosity in thinking beyond the strict content being taught at school and embracing her emotional nature to care for others. At the end of the novel, we come to realise that Sissy Jupe is the only character with a happy ending, “happy Sissy’s happy children loving her; she, grown learned in childish love”. (365). Here, Dickens portrays his key message of embracing one’s humanity, in order to enjoy the gift of life, making the most of the experiences gained, rather than be stuck in the routine of work, constantly miserable from the struggles and burdens of earning a living.