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Describe Charles Dickens' ability to bring out the individual cost of a social...

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pongsothrong | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 14, 2011 at 1:07 PM via web

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Describe Charles Dickens' ability to bring out the individual cost of a social philosophy like utilitarianism.

 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 14, 2011 at 7:43 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that Dickens' ability to make sense of the social situation with respect to its impact on the individual is what helps to define his writing and his place in literature.  This can be seen in his work, Hard Times.  Dickens uses Gradgrind's embrace of utilitarianism to construct a situation where something that is perceived to have social benefits can result in disaster on the individual level.  Gradgrind's industrial approach to consciousness is what ends up driving a wedge between he and his children, and creates a realm where they are unhappy with their lives and the decisions that arose from his own preaching of the philosophy of utility and industry.  In this, Dickens makes it clear that there are individual experiences and narratives that lie outside the realm of philosophical social appropriation.  This means that what could be perceived as a philosophy of social good can actually carry with it implications in the broadest sense of the word.  Dickens' ability to raise another side to industry in Coketown and his critique of the utilitarian philosophy is why Dickens was able to be so effective in raising how a social idea can carry individual cost.

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