How does Dickens expose the failings of utilitarianism in his novel Hard Times?
Utilitarianism is a term quite unfamiliar among today’s generation, therefore let me start by defining what this word means. Utilitarianism says an action is morally right if it benefits the greatest number of people. You determine what is right by calculating the amount of pleasure or suffering your actions may cause. The opinion of the majority is more important than that of the minority.
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 nothing else."
These are the first sentences the reader will read. ...view middle of the document...
He repeatedly repeated the word “fact” fact this, fact that, fact everywhere to emphasis to the reader that he thought the idea of fact was silly.
Also Coketown isn’t presented as the most beautiful place in the world. Instead it’s described as an industrialized city under the influence of utilitarianism. The smoke which hovers around the town like “serpents” and machines which work like “mad elephants”. Only the rich have a say and the poor are not considered individuals but ‘Hands.’
Dickens portrays the failings of utilitarianism specifically through his characters. At the beginning of book1 Mr Gradgrind is described as “a man who proceeds upon the principle that 2 and 2 is 4 and nothing else”. Dickens, using satire, repeatedly describes Gradgrind as ‘square’- ‘square forefinger’, ‘square shoulders’ to show how boring he was. Yet towards the end he begins to doubt the theory on which he has based his whole life upon. He realises that although you need the wisdom of the head, the wisdom of the heart is equally as important. But the person to show him all this in the end was Sissy. Sissy Jupe steps in as the "stupid" little girl, who knows nothing of reality; she represents the circus people with her innocence and free-will, qualities which are lacking in the lives of the people around her. Mr Gradgrind, the flashy politician, turns out to need help from the little girl that he set out to "help" in the beginning.
Louisa is a perfect example of the failings of the impeccable system. She, like her brother Tom was brought up to be hard, machine-like and exemplars of facts who lack any emotions. According to the system only the facts are important in every situation. The decision of sharing one’s life with someone for the rest of their life should be no different than any other decision taken in life. The facts of the matter are what are of...