Hard Times (a series of comments on the characters)
Thomas Gradgrind's family tree. Note how several of his children are named after utalitarian (and free-market) philosophers.
Thomas Gradgrind's pedagogy is one of the central themes of the novel.
- The first chapter of Book 1 is entitled "The One thing Needful," a suggestion that Thomas Gradgrind believes he has distilled the complex human experience into just one thing. The first chapter of Book 3, however, is entitled "Another Thing Needful," as Thomas Gradgrind's deduction falls apart.
- Other literary works written at the time (such as Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli – definitely the worst book I've ever read, I mean who calls a character "Devilsdust" in a petty stab at the unions?) focus more on the "Condition of England" (a term coined by the historian Thomas Carlye who Hard Times is dedicated to) and class relations than Hard Times which looks at Victorian society through the lens of its disciplinary mechanisms. Gradgrind's school is one of these mechanisms.
- There is a militarisation of facts: Dickens describes facts as being loaded into the "muzzle" of a "cannon" and being used to "blow them clean out of the regions of childhood."
Mr. Gradgrind is not an inherently evil man, in fact he might have been a "kind" man had he just made a "mistake in his algebra." He seems to genuinely care for people as evidenced by his taking in of Sissy.
Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe
Sissy has a role as the agent of salvation in Hard Times. She is ultimately unable to save Louisa, casting doubt on Dickens' belief in the power of faith, imagination or faith (depending on what you believe Sissy to represent).
Dickens' treatment of unions is a curious one. The union (Slackbridge specifically) is presented through the use of images of fire. The first time Slackbridge is presented is in Book 2 Chapter 4 (Men and Brothers) it is in a room of "violent heat" with Slackbridge as "hoarse as he was hot." Dicken's concludes that it would be ridiculous to think there could be "smoke without fire." Slackbridge is characterised as a demagogue, exploiting the worker's plight for his own ends rather than any real care for them. __
Bounderby is married to Lousia at the end of Book 2. The marriage is clearly unsuitable.
Panoptic agent of evil
In an "automatic" progression in Book 2, Chapter 1 (Effects in the Bank) Bitzer is said to have received the "respectable" office of "general informant and spy." Bitzer also suffers from a solipsistic take on life, forcing his own mother to be locked up in a workhouse.
Later in the book, Bitzer turns on his 'creator' (Mr Gradgrind). He is asked "Bitzer, have you a heart?" The reply to this is a description of the heart and why he must necessarily have one as a human.