The analysis of the extract from “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens


1. The scene the author shows us begins with the description of the principal of this school Mr. Gradgrind a “man of realities. A man of facts and calculations.”. He tries to persuade the children to obey the strict rules of “no imagination” and “matter-of-fact perception of reality”. That is why his first question was the name of the girl number twenty. Then he insists on naming her Cecilia Jupe and neglect Sissy regarding it as unnecessary endearment. Then he asks the blushing girl about her father’s profession and then defines it, “…a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker.” The next question to Cecilia was to provide the definition of a horse. She was so frightened that cannot utter a word. So he asked the same question Bitzer, a boy who gave the definition in an exact and strict manner of sir Gradgrind.

Dickens has introduced another man in this poem, an extremely educated teacher Mr. M'Choakumchild, who sticks to hard and fast rules as well, and holds with Mr. Gradgrind.

The gentleman asks the children whether they “could paper the room with representations of flowers” and if they ever saw “the horses walking up and down the sides of room in reality”.

No imagination is the leading principle of “two man of facts”. After such questioning and stating that facts are important and that children “must discard the word Fancy altogether”, sir Gradgrind let the Mr. M'Choakumchild to start the lesson. There goes the description of this excessively educated gentleman: “Orthography, etymology, syntax… were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers”. It is explained that he would kill the power imagination, but everything will change.

2. The word “fact” is one of the most repeated words in the extract. It outlines the factual outlook of the men: “'Fact, fact, fact!' said the gentleman. And 'Fact, fact, fact!' repeated Thomas Gradgrind”.

3. There is a conflict between viewpoints of these two men, the ardent proponents of a “matter-of-fact worldview”, and children, whose minds are not so contaminated by all this garbage stuff. Moreover, adults suffer from lack of imagination. The author opposes views of Thomas Gradgrind to the views of still green as grass girl Sissy Jupe; yet her world outlook is the only true and sound. There is a conflict between Sissy and Mr.Gradgrind when he asks the girl about her name, her father’s profession and definition of a horse. There is also a conflict when Mr. M'Choakumchild asks the children and Sissy about decoration of “the room with the representations of horses. The conflict consists in children’s open-mindedness while teachers expect from them being matter-of-fact, logical and cold-hearted.

4. The adults’ point of view win for now and the children understood that they must blindly obey the teachers.



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