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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

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Colliding Ideas

In the novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens there are colliding ideas of fact and fancy. Facts are show as dry and emotionless truths, while fancy is depicted as a connection with the heart, imagination, and emotions. The constant teaching of facts cause the community of Coketown to become an emotionally deprived place.

Thomas Gradgrind, a schoolmaster, believed that “facts alone are wanted in life”(1) and that truth was all that was needed in life. The idea of the importance of facts is not held as a common truth to some throughout the book. Everyday facts are shoved down the throats of the children because “nothing else will ever be of any service to them”(1) and facts are what make a quality education not the interruptions of imagination and emotion. However, one of Mr. Gradgrind’s students Sissy Jupe, the daughter of a circus performer, had been taught by her father about fancy the connection with her heart, imagination, and emotions. Mr. Gradgrind’s response to this was to take her into his home and, with his own children, teach to her his sacred beliefs of facts.

As the years passed it became apparent to Louisa and Tom, the children of Mr. Gradgrind that because of their upbringing in facts their hearts and imagination had been neglected. Therefore, neither of them had the ability to love or to be happy. This created a problem when “Louisa the eldest daughter of Thomas Gradgrind Esquire of Stone Lodge”(84) married Mr. Bounderby, a man twice her age. She felt no feelings of love for Mr. Bounderby, however, she believed that it would help her bother, who she cared for dearly, because he was Mr. Bounderby’s apprentice. Despite being cared for by his sister Tom responds to this act of kindness by becoming lazy bank clerk, gambler, and a thief. This response from Tom is rooted in his upbringing in solely facts and lack of emotional maturity.

Despite Mr. Gradgrind’s attempts to reshape Sissy into a fact believing emotional zombie, she stays true to what her father taught her. Her connections with her emotions and imaginations give her the ability live out a happy life unlike Louisa, Tom, and Mr. Gradgrind. In fact, Louisa lives the rest of her life without a husband and without children. Tom eventually regrets his actions of theft but dies far from home. Likewise, after the realization of “faith, hope, and charity”(233) Mr. Gradgrind feels



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