Utilitarianism: in The Novel Hard Times

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      The fundamental keynote of Utilitarian philosophy is the greatest good or happiness of the greatest number as the rule of morality. Jeremy Bentham is the founder of Utilitarianism. Bentham had the belief that the aim of life is happiness. This philosophy of happiness was formulated by the men who gave immense importance to the material goods and entirely ignored the moral or spiritual requirements of human beings. This kind of philosophy is known as common sense. It came to be called Utilitarian because it lays great stress and emphasis on material goods and is entirely regardless of spiritual demands and happiness. This philosophy says if the lot of happiness is equal, then gambling is as good as poetry. According to this philosophy, the happiness of an utterly selfish life was equal to, or greater than the happiness of an unselfish life.

      Besides being interested in reforming society and its laws aim at the greatest happiness of the greatest number, Bentham had added a second principle that every man is the best judge of his own acts. This second principle has formulated a policy known as Laissez-faire it means everyone should be free to act for himself.

      Thus, “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” is the central point of Utilitarianism. It is further led by John Stuart Mill. His father was James Mill who was a passionate Benthamite and the model of Gradgrind. He crammed his son on facts. The imaginative art were contemplated and the mind was yoked in the service of progress.

      This philosophy, was in English, led by Herbert Spenser and others like Russell. Dickens has masterly shown in the fiction how it was concerned with industrial pattern of the day and the way it could be expected to influence people who tried to live by its Principles.

Utilitarianism in Hard Times

      The novel Hard Times starts with the scene of a schoolroom. Here children are made to stuff their minds with facts as many little vessels ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.” Gradgrind is the steadfast “believer of this philosophy in the novel. He says to schoolmaster: Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle upon which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir.!”

      The facts related to Gradgrind is that he is a retired manufacturer of hardware, the M.P. of Coketown, the owner of a school and the father of five children. Dickens is intended to expose the disaster that is expected to happen as the result of the steadfast implementation of this kind of philosophy.

      The pivotal passage is the trial lesson in Chapter 2. A pale and diseased boy explains Tiorse’ as “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shed with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” The boy who has given the above mentioned account of horse is Bitzer. If these facts are considered together they do not give the right picture of a horse. Girl no. 20 - whose real name is kept in the dark because of the particular education system in which a human being is measured through a statistical number, belongs to the circus troupe, Sleary’s Horseriding. She fails to give the convincing definitions of a horse to Gradgrind according to his theory of education though she has first hand information about horses because of living in Circus with several kinds of animals around. When girl no 20 Sissy defends her taste for a flowery-patterned carpet by stating: “I am very fond of flowers.....and I would fancy. As she says the word ‘fancy’, the schoolmaster immediately pounces upon her in swaggering manner: “Ay ay ay! But you mustn’t fancy. That’s it: You are never to fancy” and “You are not, Cecilia Jupe”. “Fact fact, fact,” says the government officer, Fact, fact, fact” reverberates Thomas Gradgrind.

      So, “low down”, is girl no 20 in “the elements of Political Economy” after fifty six days of study that she has to be “set right by a prattler three feet high for returning to question. The question by a prattler three feet high for returning to question. The question is, “What is the first principle of this science?” The answer is too absurd, “To do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.”

      Mr. Gradgrind implies his theory not only in school but it is the same with him in home also. “No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon, it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had ever learned the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on the subject...”

      The facts in which Gradgrind takes interest are not the facts of vitality or reality but only cut-and dried-facts that can be defined reasonably and intellectually. Louisa, the daughter of Gradgrind, has no way out for her emotional life except her brother. Her brother Tom finds outlet for his emotions in gambling. “When the fact about who has committed the robbery is revealed, Tom says to his father that all the time he is taught utilitarian philosophy” “So many people are employed in position of trust; so many people, out of so many; will be dishonest. I have heard you talk, a hundred times of its being a law. How can I help laws”. This individual responsibility is belittled in favor of conformity to abstract rules of statistics; the choice of human being is restrained under the bends of mechanical determinism. Thus Gradgrind’s philosophy believes in judging human behavior rationally and to nip emotion, fancy and imagination in the bud. Bitzer’s argument with Gradgrind at the moment is worthy to notice because in it Gradgrind is answered exactly according to his own education philosophy and he feels embarrassed at it.

      “Bitzer—have you a heart?”

      “The circulation, Sir,” returned Bitzer, “couldn’t be carried on without one—”

      ‘What motive-even motive is reason-can you have for preventing the escape of this wretched youth’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘and crushing his miserable father? See his sister here. Pity us!’

      ‘I am going to take young Mr. Tom back to Coketown, in order to deliver him over to Mr. Bounderby. Sir, I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Bounderby will then promote me to young Mr. Tom’s situation? And I wish to have his situation, sir, for it will be a rise to me, and will do me good.’ ‘If this is solely a question of self-interest with you’ Mr. Gradgrind began.

      ‘I beg your pardon for interrupting sir,’ returned Bitzer; ‘but I am sure you know that the whole social system is a question of self-interest.’

      Bitzer is not ready to accept any kind of offer from Gradgrind. His promotion at the bank is worth more than any amount Mr. Gradgrind can give. Mr. Gradgrind now says that he had got education in his model school, in this order he wanted to make Bitzer feel gratified. But Bitzer replies, “My schooling was paid for,” says Bitzer; “it was a bargain; and when I came away, the bargain ended.”

      Something happens in the case of Gradgrind’s daughter Loiusa. Mr. Gradgrind finds no reason why Louisa would not marry his friend, a rich, manufacturer Bounderby. From the economic point of view they are too matched couples; her lack of emotions for him would not disturb their life anyhow because Bounderby “quires nothing immaterial from her. Apart from the other characters in the novel Janies Harthouse also has faith in the policy of self-interest.

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