Howards End

The Intellectual Limits of Class: Fact vs. Truth in Hard Times and Howard's End

E.M. Forster and Charles Dickens use their novels, Howard's End and Hard Times, respectively, to discuss the social inequalities of class. These inequalities are registered in their characters' different relationships to facts and knowledge. While Dickens' characters in the Gradgrind household are shackled to bland fact, Forster's intellectuals use debate as a manner of seeking larger truths. It is Forster's impoverished characters, particularly the poor Mr. Leonard Bast, who can only grasp simple facts.

Dickens' Hard Times portrays its economically elite as a people of fact. Mr. Thomas Gradgrind is depicted as "charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away" (42). His logic is based upon nothing but facts. When asking Cecilia 'Sissy' Jupe what her father's profession is, he manages to create a more regal title for the circus performer by taking each individual task that he does and giving it a title of its own. The power of entertainment does not interest Gradgrind; however, upon asking Cecilia about the individual tasks of her father's job, Gradgrind does find respectability in creating "a veterinary surgeon, a...

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