Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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How is symbolism used in Hard Times?

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In Hard Times, the circus symbolizes learning through experience. It's here that Sissy Jupe learns what a horse is, for example, without needing to give the kind of precise, lexicographical definition insisted upon by Mr. Gradgrind. The people who live and work in the circus may not be educated in the formal sense of the word, but they know much more about the world than this stern, unbending pedant.

One could argue that it's because Sissy has grown up in the circus that she's better able to navigate her way through the travails of life than Gradgrind's children, who've learned nothing except their father's narrow, fact-based curriculum. If he...

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