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Charles Dickens Research Essay

Essay/Term paper: Hard times

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Charles Dickens

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The book Hard Times written by Charles Dickens is a story about a Lancashire Mill Town in the 1840"s. The novel is divided into three books. Dickens titles the books accordingly to prepare the reader for what is about to come, and throughout the novel he shows the effects of the education system, the setup of the caste system, and the Industrial Revolution had on society through this small town of Coketown. The main characters of the novel show the English caste system of the 19th century by showing how one influences the other and the amount of power the bourgeois now have in society. They own the factories. Therefore, they have the money and, because of the changes coming from the revolution, have some power in society. The titles of the three books, "Sowing", "Reaping", and "Garnering" shows significance in the way Dickens is trying to help the reader get an understanding of what is to come. Dickens shows the way the working classes are fighting for a say in the way they are treated at work by forming unions and how a bad negotiator can ruin things. He shows from the start that the education system is based on "fact" and not "fancy." The breakdown of the "fact" based education is shown when Gradgrind himself asked a question that is not fact based. In the end, the whole system of education is reversed and the "fancy" is fancied.

The novel can be summarized as a book about two struggles. One struggle is between fact and imagination and the other is the struggle between two classes. 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. He has brought up his children to know only the "facts." Everything is black and white, right or wrong with nothing in between. Gradgrind does not like the idea of going to the circus or having flowered carpet. Everyone knows a person cannot have flowered carpet. He would trample all over them and they would end up dying. The second struggle is between the classes is illustrated between Stephen Blackpool and Bounderby. Blackpool represents the working class and Bounderby the bourgeois or middle class. He is a warm-hearted man who feels he deserves this mediocre life. Blackpool was once an employee under Bounderby and was fired for standing up for his beliefs. He believed that the union was taking anything that was given to them because they could not expect anything better. Stephen stands up for his fellow workers asking for reform and this makes Bounderby mad so he fires Stephen. This was typical during the Industrial Revolution. The run down society Dickens speaks of is that created by the Industrial Revolution. The air is filled with smoke that the working class have to breath. The water is turning colors with pollution caused by the factories. The people who are most effected by this are people like Blackpool, the lower class. Dickens shows Stephen and Bounderby as a typical worker-employer relationship. Dickens shows the way in which the factories were run at this period. A person could lose their job simply by disagreeing with what he felt was wrong because the employer did not really care about the employee. This is the way the workers were treated with no respect. In contrast to the industrial revolution, it would be highly unlikely that a middle class citizen such as Bounderby to employ an aristocrat.

The titles of the three books ("Sowing", "Reaping", and "Garnering") are named in a way of giving a special reference to the upbringing and the education of the children. The titles together show the basic plot of the story. "Sowing," suggests that in the 1st book the idea of the children being sown with facts and it also lays the foundation of the plot of the novel. They are being taught fact. Where 2+2= 4 and nothing else matters, there is no gray area. Everything is either black or white and nothing else. They are not taught emotion. The 2nd book talks of the reaping or harvesting. In this book, Dickens shows that whatever was sown in the first book, the consequences are now being seen. For example, Louisa Gradgrind Bounderby was sown with the seeds of Fact. She used facts to decide upon marrying Bounderby. It would help Tom out and get him a high position in Bounderby"s bank. We can tell that she did not want to marry Bounderby when she said, "There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, fired bursts out, father!" This seems be symbolism to a negative view of marrying Bounderby. In other words, she is saying that there would be repressed feelings of passionate love and if this marriage would to happen and deny her the opportunity of love. She would be susceptible to being seduced. This almost happens with Mr. James Harthouse. Here Dickens is referring to the Bible where there is a concept of "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap"(Galatians 6:7). Thus, being married to Bounderby, Louisa had harvested an unhappy marriage. The 3rd book, "Garnering", is about how characters are starting to pick of the broken pieces of their lives. Mr. Gradgrind starts to help his children put together pieces of their lives by promising to teach them the "fancy" or emotional side of life along with the "facts."

The main characters in the story are representative of the 19th century caste system. The aristocracy is represented through Mrs. Sparsit and Mr. Harthouse. Mrs. Sparsit is motivated by an underlining jealousy towards Bounderby; she works for him, throughout the book. During this time in history, there was a conflict of power going on. The middle class was gaining it and the aristocracy was losing it. Mrs. Sparsit despises Bounderby and his philosophy that he is a "self-made man." Mr. Harthouse lives the life of a typical aristocrat. He lives the idle life, only moving to Coketown to find something to occupy him. He tried to steal Louisa away from Bounderby. This shows that Harthouse still felt that the rules didn't apply to him being aristocratic. Bounderby, Thomas Gradgrind, Tom Gradgind, and Louisa Gradgrind represent the middle class. Bounderby is the typical successful middle class citizen of this time. He has a lot of wealth and influence and he does not care about his employees. The father, Gradgrind, is driven by a firm belief in his educational system. Therefore, pounds facts into his children. Tom Gradgrind is later revealed as very weak and becomes a person only interested in what he can get no matter how it affects other. He is heartless. Louisa is a poor girl trapped in the middle. Both her father and brother push her to marry Bounderby. She only does this to make them happy, but we see throughout the book that she has an interest in the fancy side of life. Sissy Jupe and Stephen Blackpool represent the lower class. Sissy Jupe is orphaned at the beginning. Blackpool is a worker for Bounderby. Both are very uneducated, but very compassionate people. Blackpool and Jupe show throughout the book the typical lower class citizen. They were very compassionate towards their fellow man and help whenever they could.

In looking at the aspects of the 19th century. Dickens gives a description about how the "hands", or the workers, were being mistreated and that there was little hope that they would be helped. Dickens" views towards unions at this time are that they were just as corrupt as the employers. Slackbridge is one of the union agitators. He claims to be for the union, but Dickens describes him as a false prophet. He was not a very good negotiator for the union. Even his name suggests that he is a very poor "bridge" between the workers and the owners. Slackbridge takes whatever is offered and that is not much at all.

The Gradgrind education system backfires on Gradgrind himself. This is seen through an ironic situation between him and Bitzer, Bitzer was an excellent product of the "system." Bitzer had stopped Gradgrind"s son Tom from leaving town. Tom had been caught stealing money from Bounderby"s bank. By this time Gradgrind has become a more emotional man, torn down by the constant failure in life by his own children. In an effort to save Tom from any jail time, he was planning to send Tom away from town. The emotions felt by Gradgrind become too much for him and in a "broken down and submissive" manner asks Bitzer, "have you no heart." Bitzer replies. "No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood can doubt that I have a heart." The irony is that Gradgrind taught Bitzer to think in this manner. Bitzer uses facts to undermine a question clearly related to compassion, which Bitzer does not have. Gradgrind would have answered the question the same way at the beginning of the novel.

Toward the end of the book, fact and fancy became reversed. Why was that? It was because of the realization that the Gradgrind education system failed. Teaching only facts was not the best way of eduacating the children. Gradgrind himself figures this out when he sees his own children failing at life. Dickens illustrates that the education system of this time was educating people to not think on their own. Their imaginations were suppressed and that it also was not interested in making well-rounded students, but denying children their childhood. The significance of the ending being in the circus is that is the complete opposite of everything that was being taught at the beginning. The institution of the school of fact is totally gone. A new way of looking at life has arisen. Facts can no longer the only thing in life. The necessity of compassion, love, and understanding are now shown to be of more importance that learning facts alone. The entire Gradgrind system of facts proved to be a failure, and Gradgrind learns that emotions and imagination are the controlling forces in everyone's life. Gradgrind is filled with repentance for ruining the lives of his children, as he decided to make "his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope, and charity."

In Dickens three books in the novel, we are shown the effects of the education system, the caste system, and the Industrial Revolution had on society through this small town of Coketown To me the book was a good portrayal of what life in the 19th century would have been like. The breakdown of society from a single towns standpoint through the eyes of Dickens is amazing.

In my opinion, I felt that the voice of Gradgrind had the most impact throughout the novel. As the novel progresses, so does the attitude of Gradgrind. He slowly faded away from his idea of education of nothing but fact, to completely abandoning that philosophy and promises to intertwine the two. Also, he showed that he was a stronger man, by standing up to Bounderby when Louisa came home. He allowed her to stay and Bounderby divorced her. Gradgrind did this out of love and with no concern about what Bounderby thought or would "say" about it.


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Essay/Term paper: Charles dicken's novels: literary criticism

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Charles Dickens

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Charles Dicken's Novels: Literary Criticism

Something about Charles Dickens and his ability to take his reader to
unbelievable places with his imaginative powers allows him the honor of being
the most popular English novelist of the 19th century. Dickens has thrilled his
readers for many years with his down-to-earth stories about real people forced
into real situations. Charles Dickens has the ability to tell his stories from
personal experiences. He fine-tuned his ability to tell his own story through
the life of another character or cast of characters.

Born on the evening of February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second child of
his parents, John and Elizabeth Dickens. His parents lived in Portsmouth, which
is located on England's southern coast. The family was in the lower division of
the middle class. Charles Dickens' father, John, was a clerk at the Navy Pay
Office in Portsmouth. Dickens's mother was very affectionate and rather foolish
in practical matters. John was a vivacious and generous man, but often lived
outside the boundaries of his tight pocketbook. Later in life Dickens used his
father as the basis for his fictional character, Mr. Micawber and his mother as
Mrs. Nickleby in the Brothers Cheeryble (Constable 25).

In 1814 John Dickens was transferred from the post in Portsworth to one in
London. Three years later the family moved to Chatham to be closer to their
father who was working steadily at the post. Charles Dickens's mother taught
him to read when he was barely five and for the next few years Dickens lived
wonderfully, reading every book he could get his hands on. He quickly read
through his father's collection of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Defoe, Smollett,
Fielding, and Goldsmith. Every one of these authors left a mark on the young
mind of Charles Dickens which is easy to see in his style and attitude
throughout writings (Carey 6).

During this time Dickens started attending school where he excelled and pleased
his father greatly. Although he was a solitary child, Dickens was observant and
good natured and often participated in different comical routines for the class.
Looking back on this period of his life, Dickens thought of it as the golden age
(Carey 6). In the first novel that he wrote, The Pickwick Papers, Dickens tries
to bring back the good old times as he remembers them with their picturesque
nature. Gary Carey believes that this novel displays the happiness of innocence
and the playful spirit of the youth during the time of Dickens's youthful days

Overtaken by financial difficulties, the Dickens family was forced to move into
a shabby suburb of Camden Town. This move must have shown the family how good
they had it back in Chatham. There Dickens was removed from school and forced
to work degrading menial jobs in an effort to help his struggling father put
food on the table. Dickens was put to work in a blackening factory among many
rough and cruel employees, probably the worst job in town. Shortly after
Dickens started working in the factory his father was thrown into jail for
failure to pay his debts, only to be released three months later. This period
of time affected Dickens greatly as he went into a period of depression. He
felt abandoned and destroyed by this evil roller-coaster ride of life he was on.
From this time period come many of the major themes of his more popular novels.
Perhaps the most popular of these novels is David Copperfield. In this novel
Dickens depicts a young man who grows up in a very similar way to that of his
own (Allen 28).

Dickens' sympathy for the victimized, his fascination with prisons and money,
the desire to vindicate his heroes' status as gentlemen, and the idea of London
as an awesome, lively, and rather threatening environment all reflect the
experiences he had during his time on his own. On his own at the age of twelve,
Dickens learned many necessary life skills which also developed in him a driving
ambition and a boundless energy that transferred into every thing that he did

It would be a mistake to think of Charles Dickens as an uneducated man just
because he had little formal schooling. Dickens did what everyone should do,
learn from life. His entire writing career was a continuing process of
development and experimentation. Many of his themes keep repeating themselves
throughout his pieces and those themes most certainly stem from his early life.
From his early Pickwick Papers to his one of his last pieces The Mystery of
Edwin Drood Dickens never ceased to develop his writing abilities and skill,
establishing himself as the major and primary Victorian novelist (Bloom 189).

The journey from boyhood into manhood is a momentous one, and definitely
something that has a lasting effect on one's person. Charles Dickens in his
novel David Copperfield describes the journey into manhood by telling a story
similar to his own life through the life of "David Copperfield." There isn't
one underlining theme in this novel there are many. The journey is one that
along with "David's" is longing for what is lost in the past and the humiliation
he feels from being an orphan. Dickens has written an excellent novel
describing the troubles of growing up and the benefits of having a rough
childhood. Through the rough experiences that he had, Dickens was able to look
back on his early life and write world-famous stories about them. Calvin Brown
feel that these experiences also helped shape the man the Dickens became, as do
all experiences in life for everyone (Brown 144)

The structure of Dickens's Copperfield has the freeness and the unity of a
wonderful journey. As the scene moves from place to place in the story each
move also represents a critical step in David's spiritual journey to manhood.
Dickens uses the pattern of changing scenes to provide both variety and contrast
of mood. The atmosphere changes as the story moves along from the Salem House
to Blunderstone, giving the story diversity. Dickens constantly shows how the
life of David would have been much easier had he had a decent father figure in
his home while he was growing up.

David is constantly searching for what he has lost in the past. He recalls the
beautiful world of the Peggottys when he says, "It seems to me at this hour that
I have never seen such sunlight as on those bright April afternoons, that I have
never seen such a sunny little figure as I used to see, sitting in the doorway
of the old boat..."(Copperfield 7) This writing of Dickens binds the reader to
the story. David remembers the "olden" days and thinks of them as the "golden"
days (Allen 28).

As the beginning of the story describes, David Copperfield has many hard
childhood experiences, such as Dickens's own humiliating days spent working in
the blackening factory in London. The despair and humiliation that he suffered
there and the rejection of his parents and the loss of all his hopes of self-
fulfillment are relived through David in this book. Dickens tells his own story
well through the life of David Copperfield. He isn't looking for the readers'
sympathy. He simply wants the reader to understand that just because he had a
rough life doesn't mean it was a bad one.

A journey into adulthood, something that everyone must go through, although it
may be easier for some than others. Charles Dickens, in David Copperfield,
describes this journey as he makes the reader a vital part of David
Copperfield's life. This journey is a theme in this novel as well as "David's"
longing for what is lost in the past and the humiliation he feels from being an
orphan. Dickens has developed his character, David, into a hero much like he
wanted to be remembered as (Andreola 3). Many critics today think he achieved
that goal!

Charles Dickens also wrote many other books throughout his creative writing
career. In his book A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens causes the reader to ask
what the novel is really about, just what the driving theme is. Although each
reader will come up with a different answer to this question, most of the
answers fall into one of three categories.

Some readers will say that this novel is about the different personalities of
the many different and well-described characters throughout his novel. The
story portrays a French physician, Dr. Manette, who has been wrongly put into
prison in the Bastille for nearly eighteen years before the story even begins
(Constable 24). Because he witnessed the aftermath of a crime that was
committed by two other fellows, the doctor was thrown into prison. The entire
prison experience is something that he can never fully shake free from. In
moments of stress throughout the novel Dr. Manette often goes insane, a result
of his time in prison. The story also concerns a man by the name of Jarvis
Lorry, who, in the beginning of the book, is on his way to retrieve the doctor
from the prison (Constable 13).

Another group of readers will believe that this book is about the French
Revolution. Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities starts out in 1775 while the
Revolution was still in its underground preliminary stages. The book covers
eighteen years ending with one of the bloodiest battles, the Reign of Terror in
1973. Although most of the major revolution events take place off stage in the
novel, they do have a major effect on the lives of the characters in the story.
It would certainly be no error to say the events of the French Revolution, which
make up so much of the setting in this novel, is what the theme of the novel
really is (Carey 11).

The third category of readers will say the novel's theme is beyond the fictional
characters and historical events and is more of a symbol. These readers will
see that the actions relate to Dickens's vision of life and the reason for it.
This group will say that the book presents a picture of human life using the
dramatic language of characters and their actions (Carey 12).

Anyway that a reader approaches A Tale of Two Cities, it is a hard book to read
although it does become interesting at times and in the end brings the reader
into an understanding of personal life trials during the time of the French
Revolution. Whether the reader believes that the novel is about its characters,
historical events or symbolism, it doesn't matter. Charles Dickens wanted the
readers of enjoy this novel not fight over what the meaning behind it is (Carey

Sadly, many of the greatest books that have strengthened and shaped Western
civilization are drifting out of modern life and thought. But it doesn't have to
be this way. Someone must responsibly keep the literary lights such as Charles
Dickens burning brightly for the benefit of younger generations. (Andreola 2)

It is time to rescue Dickens from the attic and let him stir the hearts of
people today. Dickens can challenge, motivate, and entertain in ways the Hardy
Boys never could. Dickens became famous writing stories that highlighted the
difference between right and wrong in his own time. His stories invite readers
to form an opinion and make decisions about a character's right or wrong actions.

As only an artist could. Dickens paints a moral picture of life. To paint the
moral for children is more effective than to "point" it. Here lays the help the
younger generation of today needs to develop a "moral imagination."

When reading episodes from Dickens's stories it is easy to get to know his
characters more intimately than neighbors. The experience of life along with his
characters is something that the readers feel. Feelings arouse for them as the
characters struggle in difficult situations (Andreola 2).

In Terry W. Glaspey's Great Books of the Christian Tradition, he says, "Dickens
could sometimes be faulted for being overlong and sentimental, but his novels
seem to lodge in the memory long after they are read. His ability to create a
multitude of memorable characters gave us the adjective 'Dickensian.' His
staunch Victorian morality is a pleasant contrast to our modern sense of moral
drift." And what wonderful characters they are! His heroes are people of
everyday life who supply readers with a vision of goodness (Andreola 3)

Clearly without the writing of Charles Dickens the literary world of today would
be suffering a great loss. Dickens thought his many years of life experiences
was able to use his talents as a writer to express to the everyday reader what
the true meaning of life is. Charles Dickens did for the literary world what
stories like that of small town basketball sensation, Larry Bird, did for small
town athletes around the United States. Dickens helped readers understand
themselves, those who are the common folk. Middle to lower class.


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