The Picture of Victorian Society in Hard Times

Hard Times generally means a period of economic depression with food shortage, low wage and unemployment. Hard Times means a general situation in which the lives of people are restricted. In such situation, people cannot have a free and spontaneous growth of their natural feelings and sentiments.

Charles Dickens

It shows a situation in the novel, where mechanization and industrialism leads to slavery to routine and calculation.

The educational theory in the Victorian age was primarily based on facts, figures and calculations. According to Gradgrind, facts alone are wanted in life. The minds of human beings can be formed only upon facts. Children are considered as empty vessels to be filled with facts. Gradgrind is a man of realities, an eminently practical man, a man of facts and calculations.

The whole education system was based on pragmatism or on practical qualities, and does not touch the imaginative or emotional side of life. Gradgrind is disappointed at his metallurgical Louisa and mathematical Tom becoming curious about the circus. Mrs. Gradgrind asks her children not to waste their time in wandering at things, but to go and be something logical. The element of utilitarianism is seen in Bounderby the manufacturer and banker. He is a practical minded man and there is no touch of humanity in him, especially in his relationships with other people.

The Society of England was getting industrialized and machinery occupied the top priority in national life. Industrialization gave rise to conflict between the capital and labor due to which the trade unionism was rising. There were snobbery and hypocrisy in the minds of the upper middle class people. The aspects of Victorian life and some other evils and abuses are described in Hard Times. Mrs. Sparsit is the representative of this class of hypocrites. For such people, money is the only important thing in life. Mrs. Sparsit always mentions the fact that her husband was a “Powler”. Bounder always mentions the fact that Mrs. Sparsit has been an aristocrat just to prove that he himself has risen up from the bottom and is a self-made man.

Coketown is described as a town of machinery and tall chimneys, with similar streets, similar people, and similar boring life. It is a mode of industrial pollution. The workers working in the industries are not supposed to have any soul. This neglect of workers gives rise to union leaders like Slackbridge, who only want to continue their agitation against the manufacturers and do not really care for the welfare of the workers.