Analysing Title OF Dickens’ "Hard Times"


HARD TIMES was serialized in Dickens’ magazine HOUSEHOLD WORDS in the winter of 1853 -54. Before the publication of the novel, Dickens took great pain with the title of the book. He experimented with as many as 24 titles Like ' According cooker the grindstone ' ' something tangible ' ' Rust and Dust’, ‘Hard Heads and Soft Hearts’ etc. Later on those whittled down to just four : ' Two and Two are Four ' ,‘A matter of calculation’  , ' The Gradgrind philosophy ' and ‘stubborn things’ of these the first three admittedly pointed to the utilitarian apotheosis of facts , figures and averages . The last one however, indicates the unbeatable nature of fancy and imagination. But these titles too were left out in favour of the present one - Hard Times. Understandably Dickens intention is not, to figure at the irrational reverence for fact in Victorian society but to outline the dystopia to which this leads. The present title implies that the novel's principal thematic preoccupation is the hard times which Dickens argues are the logical backlash of fact ' -- worship to the total neglect of tender human impulses.

Dickens powerfully demonstrates the crisis that the educational institutions of this time had faced owing to madding fact - orientation. He has satirized the theories of political economists through exaggerated characters such as Mr. Bounderby, the self-made man motivated by greed, and Mr. Gradgrind, the schoolmaster who emphasizes facts and figures over all else. Encouraged by the Benthamite fact - craze the educationists took pains to reduce everything to statistical and measurable data. In an important chapter Tom and Louisa are admonished for peeping into circus show which amounts to inculcation of fancy. Mrs. Gradgrind takes them to task for their misdemeanour and instructs them to be something logical. Promotion of this fact stuff, fancy - starved curriculum is sowing a poison seed. It is difficult to overlook the ironic evocation of different ‘metaphors of growth and cultivation, plant nothing else and root out everything else’, Out Fact for it alone is susceptible to proof and demonstration ". The inevitable result of this malnutrition of fancy is that Gradgrind is hoisted with his own petard. The ironic implication of the titles of the three books of the novel - Sowing, Reaping and Garnering is therefore hard to be ignored. Gradgrind is a fool to sow the wind only to reap the whirlwind. He has indeed a very hard time when he finds Louisa utterly ruined. Tom changed into a ' bored whelp ' and Bitzar, the pride of his school, disowning gratitude simply because his schooling was paid for ', it was a -- bargain ".

The title is apt and significant in so far as it hints at the industrial crisis too. Dickens ' thesis is that the hard times are man - made. In an industrialized town like Coketown , it is the inhumanity of industrialists like Bounderby who is culpable for the sorry scheme of things . In this trying time of civilization every worker is just a ' hand ', a soulless subhuman creature to whom even smoke is healthy. Bounderby has not the slightest regard for ' humbugging sentiments ' of his workers whom he equates with machines:
         “So many Hundred Hands in this mill, so
            Many horse - o steam power:"
Dickens' points is that' the 19th century business ethos laissez faire proposed and practiced by the utilitarian economies spawned a nightmarish time of the civilization. So hard was the time that in the ' impassable world ' of Bounderby everything was fact between the lying in hospital and the cemetery '. No wonder that Bounder by makes love to Louisa in the form of bracelets and the hours of his cold, superannuated romance are perfectly punctual " The deadly statistical recorder in the Gradgrind observatory knocked every second on the head as it was boon and buried it with his accustomed regularity. " Gradgrind by the imperfect utility calculus man ceases to be a man. This accounts for the ‘rugged individualism ' of Boundary - The Bully of Humanity who has pensioned off his mother Mrs. Peglar on 30 pounds a year on condition that ' she should never tell others how affectionately she reared up her dear Jorish and let him aggressively make a virtue of low parentage.

The title has a bearing or many. The details indicate that humanity is jawing through a very edificial face. Sissy's father has some how fallen on hard times for his performance is no longer flawless. He has lately seen missing tips, falling short in his tips and found bad in his tumbling. Stephen Blackpool has also his hard times. He is a persecuted husband who cannot divorce his wife given to drink and vile life style. The word and time look inimical to all his innocent wages. The muddled situation he is bogged down in is one of unrelieved gloom. There is the cruel and blind criminal law to punish him if he hurts his wife or flees from her - or marriages his ' good angel ' Rachael or simply lives with her with out marriage in case the divorce is not granted. Stephen can only burst out in anger:
       “This a muddle. It is just a muddle a ' together and the sooner I am dead the better '.
Thus the present title of the novel is highly appropriate, for the novel not merely diagnosis the causes of educational and socio-economic crisis, but somberly draws the dismally bleak hard times which are but an out come of them.

Ardhendu De  

Ref: 1. Study Materiel IGNOU 
         2. WIKIPEDIA


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