Hard Times is the shortest novel by Charles Dickens, which was first published in 1854. The novel was released in installments in Household Words, an English weekly magazine edited by Dickens in the 1850s. Dickens depicts the condition of England through the fabricated city of Coketown in Hard Times. Throughout the novel, he examines the situation of the workers and trade unions and his satire is against the evils of the industrial Victorian society. The evils are embodied in the residents of Coketown. So, how do the central characters portray the issues taken up in the novel?
Dickens uses names which root in literal referents outside the character and they are therefore able to assume a metaphorical function in the characters of Hard Times. Thomas Gradgrind is the very first character we are introduced to in Hard Times and one of the prominent characters through whom Dickens connects the characters and plotlines in an intricate web. His surname if broken into two gives us insight of his personality, ‘Grad’ is the abbreviation of graduated giving the readers a feeling that he is a well-educated person. Whereas the other half ‘grind’ expresses his way of educating his children, “grinding” their minds with facts.
Using such a method to name the characters is presumably due to its strong thematic emphasis and also the brevity of the novel.
(Irony and social satire) The irony is found sufficiently at the scene when Gradgrind and a government officer ask questions to the students at the school and the answer that they give to enlighten them. The way Bitzer is described is also satirical. The satire in the manner of Gradgrind’s upbringing children is self-evident. The children are made to lead a dull life at home. No child rhyme and stories were told to them to make them sleep. Ironically Dickens called the siblings ‘metallurgical Louisa’, and ‘mathematical Tom’. Another student at the school from the other, Sissy Cecilia Jupe, is addressed as “girl number twenty” not even by her real name, then the factual education and satire upon it is obvious.
The novels main focus is on utilitarianism in education, industry and also in the issue of marriage. Use of names for thematic purposes