2/ Write a letter to Charles Dickens commending him on how he has exposed real deficiencies in human behaviour.
I must commend you on the powerful insights of your writing in Hard Times. Indeed, the deficiencies of human behaviour you expose could ironically even be termed as inhuman. Mr Bounderby’s snobbery and self-interest with his incessant reminiscing of the harshness of his childhood is used as a shield to dismiss the struggles of the workers in his factory. His fixation on capitalism and his status in society to the exclusion of all else comes at the cost of his relationship with his wife, viewing her as little more than property. The great irony that I enjoyed in his character having bought so heavily into Gradgrind’s mantra of “we want nothing but Facts sir; nothing but Facts” (Dickens 3) is the creative flair he possesses. He presents this entirely false vision of himself as a self-made man, surviving through a childhood of abandonment with self-drive and discipline; this requires no small quantity of imagination to maintain for years on end!
I was also touched by Mr Gradgrind’s transformation over the course of the novel as he comes to terms with the shortcomings of his outlook on the world. For all the rigidness of his approach and desire to avoid imagination and creativity, he demonstrates kindness on several occasions. He offers a home and an education for Sissy when her father abandons her, he supports Louisa in parting from Bounderby and he protects Tom from the law. He ultimately proves himself to be a decent person “making his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope, and Charity” (Dickens 233). I appreciate the powerful message you have laid into this work by not simply demonising those who adopt this rationalist approach, but demonstrating their capacity for redemption and that they are still human beings underneath that veneer. This positive outlook promises redemption for everyone mired in such a limited view of the world.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2000.
MC, Jilly. “Mr Bounderby.” TES, 12 Oct. 2018, l.imgt.es/resource-preview-imgs/489b1d50-6b5e-4435-a532-99603d6fed93%2FBounderby.crop_530x397_0%2C62.preview.jpg?profile=res-img-med-legacy-v2.
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