Hard Times

Themes of Social Protest in Dickens's Hard Times 12th Grade

Dickens explores the issues of an industrialised society and, a key theme, the capability of the latter to suppress and obstruct human emotion, individuality and imagination. Dickens conveys these themes, primarily, through the characterisation of, and exchanges between, Gradgrind, Sissy and Bitzer, who symbolise the conflict and chasm between logic and imagination. Further, the positive depiction of Sissy, the emblem of imagination, as well as an ironic narrative voice, which satirises the logical and industrialised Gradgrind, is Dickens’ protest against the industrialising society of the 1800s.

To begin with therefore, the characterisation of Thomas Gradgrind immediately establishes a key theme of ‘Hard Times’: an industrial society involves a suppression of emotions, and thus of a person’s individuality and identity. Gradgrind is immediately presented as quantifying, and thus reducing, human emotion : “ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature”, the use of “weigh and measure”, as undeniable and factual measurements, demonstrating his, and thus the industrialised society’s, reduction of each individual’s complexity. Similarly, in Gradgrind’s belief that it is “a mere question of figures, a case of simple...

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