Charles Dickens Objectives in Hard Times

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Dickens’ Prime Purposes

      The strength of Hard Times, according to K.J. Fielding, lies in its being a moral fable—that means an imaginary story with a clear intellectual design. Dickens’ main objective in Hard Times was to criticize certain essential features of Victorian civilization. He wanted to explain the difference between Fact and Fancy. The novelist, in Hard Times, is intended to emphasize with all his skill, that the disparity between fact and fancy is not just a rhetorical antithesis. Dickens meant to state that any theory of governing conduct that is entirely devoid of love, sympathy, and harmony between human beings, leads to sterility, bitterness, loss of morality and beauty. The proper education of children must be inclined to develop morals which it should cultivate through fancy and love of life. The government of a country should not be swayed from self-interest, or should not trust into single class which is sure to look after itself. The relation between capitalists and laborers, masters and subordinates can never flourish properly if they live in frequent conflicts. Foremost Dickens wanted that affection, love, kindness like feelings should be rooted in all the relations between men and women, father and children, mother and child, brother and sister, friends etc.

The Vast Purpose of Hard Times

      The novel was thus a revolt not only against certain trends of Victorian society but against few tendencies that were to be seen and felt in any industrial civilization. It is a violent revolt against all kinds of suppression of human spirit, whether on account of classroom teaching, constitution, law or the political economy. Dickens’ objective was just to reproach mid-nineteenth century utilitarianism. It was to condemn all types of social evils which according to him were opposed to human life and its richness because they merely concentrate on “facts” and avoids human needs. That is why even the sawdust ring of circus was preferred to the cinders of Coketown or the dust and ashes of the political field.

Structural Integrity

      Only after understanding this vast purpose of the novel we can see how it welds Dickens’ comments on Stephen Blackpool’s marriage; the aesthetic principle of the “third gentleman’’ in the second chapter; the problems of trade union; Louisa’s unfortunate marriage with Bounderby and Tom’s theft at the Bank. Dickens had achieved his target to present all their ideas in a unified form. Hard Times is quite coherent and emphatic which deserves high appreciation, though the novel is not as amusing and entertaining as others.

Dickens’ Hatred for Extremists

      Often the purpose of the novel is mistaken. The cause is, it partly deals with the discord between industrialist and workers. Few critics say that Dickens had written this novel to take sides. Because Bounderby (Industrialist) and Slackbridge (Union Leader) both are presented as worthless and bad characters. Dickens is remarked by few critics as a socialist and welcomed by others as being loyal to capitalism. This is because Dickens hated extrimists on both sides. He was of opinion that right to go for strike should exist but used very little. He disliked employers like Bounderby and did not believe in the trade union agitators like Slackbridge. He wanted to bring up healthy and harmonious relationship between industrialists and workers.

Dickens’ Views on Machinery

      Dickens has not criticized industrial capitalism, but he should not be regarded as a minor prophet in the rank of Ruskin and Morris. Though George Bernard Shaw had written in the introduction to Hard Times that “Dickens’ occasional indignation spread and deepened into a passionate revolt against the whole industrial order of the modern world.” This is definitely wrong if we derive this meaning that Dickens has revolted against the introduction of the machine and he has foreseen what is the role of machine in future. Dickens is inevitably diverse and paradoxical. Ruskin thus has concluded in a letter after the death of Dickens; “He was a pure modernist - a leader of the steam-whistle party par excellence. His hero is essentially the iron master.”

The Drawback in Stephen’s Story

      The story of Stephen Blackpool, the worker who is sent to Coventry for refusing to join the trade union, is very sentimental. But he seems wrong to facts. He is not even very appropriate for the context of the novel. His character originates from Dickens’ confusion between two different communities. The entire novel, seems weakest just where it might have become strongest as studying the industrial capitalism.

The Faulty Approach to Hard Times

      There was enough scope to attach lots of importance to the industrial scene in Hard Times in comparison to the family life of Gradgrind and the circus of Mr. Sleary Dickens himself was responsible for highlighting industrial scenes. For one of the themes he had chosen a discord in the cotton industry when the Preston strike was still fresh in everybody’s mind. For the purpose of watching strike he is said to visit Preston. His denial that there was any essential link between Coketown and Preston hardly make any difference. Actually the reader begins to consider the novel as aimed at presenting that if a child were reared up in a circus he would become an embodiment of virtue and if he were sent to the model school, he would either rob a bank or do something evil. This kind of misunderstanding is the consequence of going through the story with only current and most relevant events in mind. Modem critics, who still regard the novel as expressing Dickens’ passionate hostility to industrial capitalism and its whole plan of life are more misleading. It is crystal clear that Dickens was truly more sympathetic to workers than others of his class in his time. But surprisingly he was not interested in denouncing capitalism.

Christian Morality, the Base of Hard Times

      Dickens has often used public issues in his novel, and by this effort, he helped both to awaken his creativity and to catch the attention of readers. He had employed events that public knew of; through novel Dickens spoke directly to them and then he tried to write simple truths about their relation to one another. Hard Times can be justly called a “morality drama” or moral fable. Edgar Johnson has admitted the truth. Hard Times rests on Christian morality. Of course Dickens has criticized contemporary society but not like Karl Marx with the purpose to stir revolution.

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