4th Blog Post

Take a passage from Hard Times and explain why and how this paragraph is important to the key themes of the novel.

Image from: http://schoolingtheworld.org/hard-times/

Hard Times By Charles Dickens is a novel, which expresses the harsh and insensitive theme of utilitarianism in its purest form. Utilitarianism is the thought of whether something or someone is useful to society and whether they benefit to the growth and development of humanity. Within the Chapter 2, this utilitarianism society is explicitly exposed through the characters of Mr. Gradgrind, Sissy Jupe and Bitzer.

‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’

‘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 shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.

‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’

This scene occurs within a classroom where Sissy fails to provide a distinctive and exact definition of a horse and is totally embarrassed because of it. The theme of utilitarianism comes in to play, as the story is based around a world of exact values and precision, nothing less. Sissy fails to provide a ‘use’ to society in the eyes of Mr. Gradgrind thus, meaning she doesn’t belong in this society. This paragraph is an important aspect to the novel, as it reveals to the reader that being a utilitarian society does not allow the growth of human nature and fails to allow the humane side of people to flourish.

The “subtle essences of humanity” which are free will, vulnerability and emotion are diminished in this world, but are sought through the character of Sissy Jupe. Sissy being from the circus brings forth a new dimension to the monotonous society, this being imagination. Imagination doesn’t exist is Mr. Gradgrinds world and her creativeness frustrates him immensely.

Overall, the theme of utilitarianism within this paragraph is key to the novels message as it allows for audiences to understand the importance and demand for human nature.

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7 thoughts on “4th Blog Post

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  1. Josh, I chose to comment on your blog post this week because I found myself agreeing with everything that you were saying. While I focused on a different question for my blog post, I found that we had both come to the same conclusion, that utilitarianism stifles imagination and human emotion. Your argument was engaging as it was direct and straight to the point. There was a few word that could have been changed to make the argument flow better, but overall I thought your blog post was an excellent critique of Mr Gradgrind’s approach to teaching and utilitarianism. I can’t wait to read more from you in the next few weeks, well done!

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  2. Dear Josh,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post on ‘Hard Times’ by Charles Dickens. Similarly to you, I chose the key idea of utilitarianism in relation to novel as Dickens effectively captures the disastrous (and sometimes comical) effects of a world consumed by the notion of utilitarianism. The scene from the novel that you have discussed conveys Dickens’ ideas perfectly. Dickens shows the audience how having a teacher as uptight and authoritarian as Mr. Gradgrind can have detrimental effects on his students. I appreciated how you pointed out how utilitarianism prevents human nature to flourish and I believe this was at the heart of the novel’s message. To improve your blog, I would encourage you to provide greater textual analysis including discussing the language techniques, sentence structures and word choices from the passage and their effects. For example, in the passage you have selected, it is filled with short sentences, which makes the sentences fragmented and awkward to read, you could talk about how this adds meaning to our overall understanding of the novel. Nevertheless, this was great to read! Thanks Josh!

    Sibel.

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