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Hard Times

Page history last edited by Mr. Mullen 11 years ago



Play Hard Times Jeopardy


Hard Times

 Jon, Alex, Brian, and TJ

Chapters 1-6 pages 1-40







How does Dickens portray Mr. Gradgrind?



     Mr. Gradgrind is portrayed as almost foolishly practical and empirical. He knows countless facts ranging from science to history yet ironically, he is in cabable of teaching children because he can not communicate on a child-like level with them. Mr. Gradgrinds foil might be Mr. Bounderby because, being more powerful and confident than Gradgrind, Bounderby illuminates some of the flaws in Gradgrinds character. He is what Dickens suggests is a product of the industrial revolution: unemotional and machinelike."You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon facts." This demonstrates the lack of human understanding, he neglects the importance of emotion. This is again Dickens trying to demonstrate the industrial nature of society during the time, and how this impacts humans that, are raised in it, and are a product of the ideology.


What about Mr. Bounderby? What does he represent?


 Mr. Bounderby is described as being cocky and arrogant. He persistantly tells his story of how he climbed the social ladder from being an impoverished boy to the powerful man he is today. Hard Timesis a satire of the industrial revolution; Dickens seems to use Bounderby to mock the concept of "climbing the social ladder," perhaps illustrating the fact that although wealthy, Bounderby is just as foolish as he was when he was a boy.


What do Jupe and Sleary's circus troupe represent?


 The circus troupe might represent the working class and/or lower class of the industrial revolution. They are less knowledgeable than Gradgrind and Bounderby, ironically, they seem to be better people. They are portrayed as very friendly and likable people, unlike Gradgrind and Bounderby. Dickens is making social commentary on how good, hardworking lowerclass people are bullied around by selfish and arrogant businessmen.


What is the significance of Bitzer?


 Bitzer is "well crammed" as the novel puts it. He can be seen as a mini doppelganger of Mr. Gradgrind; he is packed with facts but there is an emptyness about him which is symbolized by the way that the light from the classroom window makes him look even more pale and glassy as opposed to how the light made Jupe look wholesome and illuminated. Bitzer is able to define a horse while Sissy, an experienced horse rider, fails to. Ironically, Bitzer's definition is superficial compared to Sissy's intimate relationship with horses.





"Good-bye my dear!" said Sleary. "You'll make your fortun, I hope, and none of our poor folk will ever trouble you, I'll 'pound it."




 This represents a common theme of the industrial revolution: children separating themselves from their families to join the industrial workforce. The quote illustrates the importance people put on climbing the social ladder and becoming wealthy. Sleary refers to his troupe as poor folk, and insists he won't trouble Sissy. However, Sleary and his troupe have actually taught Sissy the skills she will need to survive in the world on her own. Antagonizing priorties of the industrial revolution.


Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over.




 This passage shows how stubbornly empirical Mr. Gradgrind is. Ironically, by only looking at facts, Mr.Gradgrind seems to be less knowledgeable than others. Sometimes two and two are more than four. This is why he is not a good father. He is overlooking the fact that children need more than just an academic education, and therefore, they are being deprived.


...It was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves forever and ever, and never got uncoiled.




 Dickens uses Coketown as a symbol of industry. The "unnatural" nature of this idustrial town has made it barbaric or "savage"-like. The smoke is described as looking like serpents, clearly Dickens has a grim view of the industrial revolution. The last part of the quote about how the smoke coiled "forever and ever, and never got uncoiled," represents how industry is a mess brought on by society that will never get better.




Chapter 7-13 pages 40-84

Tom Gradgrind 


 Tom seems to be a direct result of his fathers obsession of facts and hardcore knowledge. He sets the expectations for his young son so high that Tom feels both depressed when he cannot meet them and angry at his father for asking the impossible. He becomes the typical troubled child whose childhood is effected by overbearing parents. Gradgrind wants his son and daughter to be like him, but the fact is in someways children develop along different lines than  their parents which is what creates this tension.


Mrs. SparsitThe aristocratic maid to Mr. Bounderby, Mrs. Sparsit suffers the ultimate reversal of fortune. She goes from riches to rags and loses her money; but what she does not lose is her dignity. That is very ironic, since one would expect a person to be extremely humbled by this kind of experience. Instead she is still respected by men like Bounderby and Gradgrind for her sensibility and propriety. She still has connections to wealthy family members which also gives her an upper hand in the upper class. Bounderby even says to Louisa that he didn't care what she did or said, just so long as she respected Mrs. Sparsit, or else she would not be allowed back. That is really moving I think, that he would hold that much respect for his own maid.





"I am a Donkey, that's what I am. I am as obstinate as one, I am as stupid as one, I get as much pleasure as one, and I should like to kick like one." Page 48

 This passage really shows Tom's frustration. He feels like some beast of burden that has no use in life ut to serve his master or in this case his father. He feels stupid because he cannot live up to the expectations of his father which is to study hard afcts rigorously. He doesn't real seem to take much pleasure out of anything and when he does his father does his best to tear him from it. All these feelings build up inside Tom and by the end of the chapter he rejects the very idea of family and wishes that he never had one.  


"Louisa, never wonder!"In one expression, Mr. Gradgrind sums up his beliefs. To him, to wonder is to surrender; to admit that you do not know. He believes that wondering is a way to imagine a way you think things should be, instead of actually knowing how they are. Also he sees these imaginative stories as a mere distraction used by the lower classes as a way to get away from teh reality of the world. Ironically these stories they read are also about ordinary men and women, which counters the dehumanizing ideals of the Industrial Revolution which Dickens has already shown that he dislikes.




Chapter 14-Chapter 2 (Book 2) pages 84-124


What is Dickens trying to say about the british government, when Mr. Gradgrind becomes a member of parliament?It is a statement about the changing nature of society during the time. Government officials are becoming increasingly scientific and empirical.  

Louisa seems to be disturbed by the prospect of marriage with Bounderby, but she does not resist and seems almost indifferent to the matter. She says " What does it matter" How is Gradgrind responsible for this lack of emotion regarding the future of Louisa's life?By neglecting louisa's emmotions as a child, gradgrind has turned her into a machine. She wants to please her father, so she agrees to the marriage, but does not at all love bounderby. Gradgrind has forced his child to become another metaphor for the industrail nature of british society at the time, she does not act on emotion, but on a cause and effect relationship.


Read pg 102how has Tom changed, how  is this apparent by the way he reacts to Louisa's trepidation about Bounderby?How does the honeymoon between the two illustrate the lack of Romance in their relationship?


Who is james Harthouse, why is he interested in Gradgrind and Bounderby?The ambituos young lad is very interested in the polotics of mr gradgrind, and though he does not share his philosophy, his disingenuous nature shows that he is willing to, in order to further his own ends.



Chapters 3 (book 2) - Chapter 8 (book 2)  pages 124-167

Discussion Questions:

So far most of the characters traits have matched their names. What could Slackbridge and Blackpool's names possibly represent that has to do with the situation of the Union?

Blackpool is dismal and grim sounding, he also doesn't support the Union. 

What was Stephens purpose in the book in relation to the theme of the Industrial Revolution after being released from the factory?

 He was the inbtween of the social types, possibly the working middle class. He was the typical worker that was easily replaced as he was framed for a crime he didn't commit. 

What drove Tom to steal the money from the bank?

 We think that it may have been to spite Bounderby. There is a chance he has not completley changed into his father believeing only in fact but may have just hid them much like his sister was able to do.


Tom was able to use Stephen's situation knowing he was desperate, in order to recover from his debt. He knew that people would believe that since he had been hanging outside the bank late at night he may have been the culprit for the lost 150 pounds since immediately afterwards he left Coketown.Tom's character has made a dramatic change and the last few chapters are beginning to show it. Louisa however has remained relatively the same as we see in the scene where they meet up with Stephen at the house to help him after he is released from the factory that she still has a sense of compassion.  










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