Hard Times

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He is getting his point across to the reader how strongly he feels about how education was in the Victorian times and concern on how it was developing. Dickens has described both Bitzer and Sissy as incomparable. He shows them as completely dissimilar characters with different views on the world. Dickens describes Bitzer as, “light-eyed and light-haired”. This makes Bitzer seem colourless and lifeless, with no warmth or imagination. Bitzer is very the opposite of Sissy, he is factual and cold. Dickens is implying that all the years he has been educated by Gradgrind, has made Bitzer like this, so alike Gradgrind, a rationalist.

Dickens also describes Bitzer as “unwholesomely deficient”. This implies that Bitzer is a feeble character that is lacking something big in his life. ‘Unwholesomely’ meaning unhealthy, is indicating Bitzer is not a healthy lively person. This is because of rationalism affecting him in every way possible, leading him a miserable fact-filled life. Cleverly, ‘deficient’ means lacking something, and Bitzer is exposed as a rationalist. Rationalists do lack things in life, they do not have imagination or emotions, and they lead their lives unembellished and tedious.

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On the other hand, Dickens has described Sissy as exceedingly different to Bitzer. Dickens has described Sissy as “dark-eyed and dark-haired”. This suggests Dickens is defining Sissy as the complete opposite of what he has Bitzer, as romantic. It indicates Sissy is attractive and shining, and is full of life and colour. He also says, “… seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun”. Dickens says this as it suggests the sun makes Sissy shine, and by saying ‘deeper’ tells us that she is not lacking depth of intellect, emotion, or knowledge, because the deeper means the less shallower.

Furthermore, when Dickens says ‘lustrous’ he is implying that it gives Sissy a luminous and radiant shine, as if she is standing out from the crowd, which is exactly what Dickens is doing, making her stand out from all the rationalists. After all, Dickens is explaining the differences between rationalists and romantics and the effects it has on people. Dickens exposes clearly how rationalist and romantic minds are both different and how it affects the outcome of a person’s life and even their appearance. He does this as he wants the reader to understand his concern over education.

Bitzer’s definition of a horse is very formal and factual. Dickens makes it as rationalist-based as he can to reflect back on how Gradgrind’s rationalism has affected Bitzer from such a young age. He defines a horse as, “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eyed teeth, and twelve incisive… ” As you can see, Bitzer’s definition is blatantly about facts; it is not surprising that Bitzer has explained a horse in such a way. Gradgrind has full responsibility for the way Bitzer has turned out.

Bitzer also goes on to say, “… Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age know by marks in mouth. ” He carries on his definition, but continuously using facts. He uses no thoughts of his own imagination; he uses bare facts, which suggests he sees the world as one big fact, just like Gradgrind. It’s like Bitzer has memorised this definition from a book, as it clearly isn’t normal for a young boy to describe a horse this way. It reflects back to how rationalism has affected Bitzer’s mind and how he sees the world.

Dickens has exposed Bitzer’s definition like this as he wants the reader to understand his concerns over how education was and how rationalism took over the minds of young fragile children and turned them into machine-like beings. This also reveals his beliefs over the industrial revolution when machinery came into picture. It’s like rationalism was some sort of machine also, changing Bitzer to be the same as everyone else, a machine just like Gradgrind, lacking imagination and free of emotion. Carrying on in chapter two, ‘Murdering the Innocents’ Dickens uses a pugilistic metaphor to describe the ‘third gentleman’.

The inspector, which Dickens refers to as the ‘third gentleman’, has been described as ‘professed pugilist; always in training’. By saying this Dickens is implying the third gentleman is like a boxer which is always trying to better himself. As pugilist means boxer, Dickens is implying that the third gentleman is a tough opponent to all children, and suggests he will fight the children in any cause for them to learn everything he wants them to know. Dickens is criticising the government’s education system by calling him a pugilist.

Dickens also uses the words “He was certain to knock the wind out of common sense”, cleverly, this implies that the third gentleman is beating the children’s imagination; he is knocking them down and not letting them back up again. He is keen to knock any kind of common sense out of the way that would affect the chances of the children being turned into rationalists. This reflects on the removal of fancy and how Dickens is showing this to the Victorian Reader. The third gentleman represents an establishment of the government given high authorities, and he can change anything he wants to which involves the education system.

This relates to how Dickens is concerned over how education was, the children were trained to know facts and facts only, even if it brainwashed their minds to rid any emotion or feelings. Dickens writes about the third gentleman like this as he wants to show his concern over how the whole educational system was affected and not just Gradgrind’s school. By using the metaphor pugilist, Dickens is characterising the third gentleman as a boxer for Victorian readers to think he knocked out all romanticism out of children.

Dickens uses the metaphor M’Choakumchild as it suggests he chokes the life out of children. He has been trained exactly the same as other teachers, “turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles”. This shows us that M’Choakumchild and Grandgrind both were brought up the same to be rationalists and teach facts. It implies that they were in the same ‘factory’, by saying this Dickens is implying that other teachers and M’Choakumchild are like machines as they are turned in the same factory.

This smartly relates to the industrial revolution and how it played a big part in the Victorian times. It shows that in the Victorian times children were taught the same, taught facts and nothing but, and slowly escapes their imagination and emotions. In chapter two, Dickens lists every subject M’Choakumchild knows, and funnily enough it is all facts. Dickens is trying to show why Gradgrind has employed M’Choakumchild at his school; because he knows M’Choakumchild knows everything he wants him to know to turn the pupils into rationalists.

Dickens writes in his novel, “If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more! ” He says this as he is suggesting that if M’Choakumchild wasn’t brought up to be a rationalist, and didn’t learn anything but facts, he would have known the children as a people and not as a machine. Dickens is implying that rationalism has affected the way Gradgrind and M’Choakumchild teach the children, he believes if they weren’t too interested in teaching facts, they would have known the children’s real personality and expressed their feelings.

Dickens does this as he wants to show the Victorian reader that if romanticism replaced rationalism, in effect, it would have shown a greater relationship between the pupils and the teachers. Dickens has shown rationalism turns people into machines, and he wants to let the reader know that rationalism affects the pupils’ minds which shows his concerns over the industrial revolution and educational systems. In factories people were being replaced by machines and Dickens extends this as part of the educational system.

In the final chapter of the novel, Dickens theories over rationalism and romanticism are proven. Dickens throughout the novel has talked about how rationalism doesn’t work because no feelings and compassion are involved. He has proven this as he asks Bitzer if he has a heart, and he replies, “The circulation Sir… couldn’t be carried without one”. Bitzer smugly replies this way as he is firing the facts straight back at Gradgrind. After years of being educated in a rationalist manner, Bitzer simply replies with a rationalist fact-full comment.

Bitzer does not have a heart; rationalism has made him half a person with no compassion or feelings. Gradgrind’s rationalist teachings have backfired; he is reaping what he has sown and therefore Dickens has proven he was correct about rationalism, it does not work.


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