Last Updated on February 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 295
In Hard Times, Charles Dickens attacks the materialism of the Victorian period. At the beginning of the book, Thomas Gradgrind is explaining the system of his private school to the schoolmaster, Mr. M’Choakumchild; all that is required is facts. Later, Gradgrind explains that emotion, feelings, and fancy are weaknesses that must be eradicated if the human being is to be adapted to their environment. The results of this system of schooling are shown in the development of four pupils: Gradgrind’s son, Tom, a self-centered whelp who uses everyone around him for his own purposes and eventually turns out to be a thief; his daughter, Louisa, whose emotions have been so smothered that she allows herself to be forced into a loveless marriage that produces nothing but unhappiness; Bitzer, a creature who rises in the world by sneaking and spying to serve his own interests; and Sissy Jupe, upon whom the system has had no effect. She alone develops into a warm and delightful person. Through the character of Josiah Bounderby, Dickens shows the evils of the laissez faire system of enterprise, which grinds down powerless workers for the enrichment of the magnates. There is a close connection between the Gradgrind system of education and the prevailing economic theory, as both are practical and stripped of sentimentality.
Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!