Hard times in the novel are presented through irony via an unsteady economy, social deprivation, and suffocating relationships. These three elements work together to show how life is not always easy when surrounded by people who are unwilling to help or be kind. The first example of irony was Crawley being evicted from his house immediately before Mr. Gradgrind brings in a large sum of money for him to keep it afloat (Dickens 206). The reader knows this is ironic because John’s family has no money while their home remains occupied with all their valuable possessions.
Once he finds out that his son died in the factory accident, Crawley vows that he will never work in the factory again and keeps his promise (Dickens 209). However, when Mr. Gradgrind comes to tell him of Tom’s death, Crawley offers to split the money earned from selling Tom’s horse, and plans to continue working the same job at the factory (Dickens 208-209). The reader knows this is ironic because John had just resolved not be a worker of factories any longer due to their cruelty towards employees, which soon after changed once Mr. Gradgrind tells him about his dead son. Mr. Gradgrind’s family lives with a sense of irony as well.
Louisa is always striving for teachers’ approval yet does not provide a suitable example for them to follow by being very stubborn and self-righteous (Dickens 140). The reader may deem this ironic because she is to be an apprentice teacher but cannot provide examples for her students that are suitable. Also, Louisa does not get along with Sissy even though both have the same values when it comes to being kind.
This again makes the reader see irony in Louisa’s actions, because she does not practice what she preaches. Irony also permeates education in Hard Times. For instance, everyone must attend school until they are fourteen years old so children can become workers if need be (Dickens 53). However, no one learns anything very important besides facts about how many nails make up a fence or how many there are in a minute (Dickens 66-67). The reader can see this as ironic because it is not wise to gain knowledge of useless information while ignoring education that could be very beneficial in the long run.
The most prevalent area in Hard Times where irony is presented is through the social deprivation element. After a brief period of prosperity, a depression sets in and brings about poverty, being rid of most employment opportunities, and loss of hope throughout Coketown (Dickens 38). These circumstances have worsened by 1844, which cause people to feel lonely and depressed when surrounded by others who are also deprived of happiness (Dickens 185).
For instance, Mrs. Sparsit feels even more alone being around people at church than she is with her own family or staying at home alone (Dickens 184). The reader can see this as ironic because Mrs. Sparsit was abandoned by her family and yet she feels more alone when surrounded by a large crowd of people. Life for Hard Times characters is not easy, but it can be seen in many forms through irony that the novel’s title speaks the truth. Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times during a time when there were major economic problems going on throughout England.
In 1816, the war with France ended which opened up trade to flourish for struggling English business owners (Grossman 20-21). However, from 1830-1840, there were many strikes and workers left their jobs due to lack of wages, bringing about decline in industries such as textiles and coal (Grossman 21-22). Hard Times was written when this second larger economic depression hit, and although people could find employment in factories, they were paid very little.
It is for this reason that Hard Times carries a social deprivation element through irony because although money may be available to some degree, it cannot fix the problems of a society where there exists a sense of loneliness and emptiness. Irony can also be found in Hard Times through education. In 1833, the government established the National School System which required all children to attend school until they were 14 years old (Schroeder 27).
However, no one learned much besides how to read and write since teachers at the time had not been properly trained to instruct students more efficiently (Schroeder 27-28). Hard Times presents this irony because children are forced to acquire knowledge that may not be useful for their lives, but they cannot make the most out of what has been provided for them. Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times during an unfortunate time in England’s history. Many people’s lives were affected by economic hardships including poverty and loss of employment opportunities (Grossman 21-22).
The reader can see that Hard Times demonstrates how these conditions bring about social deprivation through irony because although money is present around Coketown, it does not help to mend the emptiness life has brought its inhabitants. Also, Hard Times carries a strong educational element through irony since students are taught facts without truly learning anything worthwhile. Because Charles Dickens himself had a strong background with poverty, Hard Times carries a realistic element in its writing despite also carrying other ironies.
Hard Times is a novel that, much like truth itself, has many facets and views. Hard Times is a story of hardships and pain as well as happiness and success. Hard Times is a story of irony: Irony in the form of facts and statistics versus reality; the irony in Thomas Gradgrind’s family life; and ironic moments outside the book Hard Times, such as Charles Dickens’ own life during Hard Times. All quotes from Hard Times by Charles Dickens are underlined so you can easily find them within the article.
All other quotes not written by Charles Dickens are cited parenthetically with author name after the quote or paraphrased if no author name is given. Sources used include UNT Libraries instructor resources. “Facts are matters of opinion, and the problem is how to collect them. ” Hard Times, chapter 2 Charles Dickens was a social reformer of his time. In Hard Times especially, Dickens discusses facts versus reality.
His views on the information before the internet were that all you needed was facts and statistics because they’re true while everything else is fiction . However, Charles Dickens’s Hard Times supplies a contrasting view of facts and truth: “Facts are matters of opinion,” meaning that no one can truly know what’s fact or fiction. The only thing anyone can do is think for themselves and judge for themselves what’s real and what’s not.
As stated in Hard Times, chapter 3: “This world has been put in its present state by such wisdom as may best be described in the remark that there is not a particle of it which has not some good reason for being exactly as it is at this precise moment. ” Hard Times, chapter 3. As many people were forced to deal with Hard Times during Charles Dickens’ lifetime, they were often left thinking Mr. Gradgrind’s way—that because things are, then they must be right and good . Many people thought that because the world was changing rapidly around them then the only way to adjust was to change too.