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The obvious solution, that workers should organize collectively in trade unions to protect their interests, was not one that Dickens embraced.In Hard Times, his portrait of the trade union, led by the fiery Slackbridge, is not an attractive one.In Coketown, the needs of the factories dominate everything else.
Slackbridge himself is an unpleasant character, and the workers are all too ready to exert a tyranny of their own when they collectively shun Stephen Blackpool.
Education Dickens also wanted to attack the failings of education and the wrong-headedness of the prevailing educational philosophy.
The philosophy that acknowledges the value only of the intellect leads to impoverished, inadequate lives.
Industrialism Another of Dickens's purposes in Hard Times was to attack the conditions of life in England's industrial cities.
He believed that many schools discouraged the development of the children's imaginations, training them as "little parrots and small calculating machines" (Dickens used this phrase in a lecture he gave in 1857).
Essay Hard Times
Nor did Dickens approve of the recently instituted teacher training colleges.These had been set up in the 1840s, after the British government acknowledged the need to raise the standard of education in schools.The first graduates of these training colleges began teaching in 1853, a year before the publication of Hard Times.Although Dickens presents the problems of industrialism and industrial relations very acutely, he does not propose any solutions.Stephen Blackpool's comment that the bosses should simply treat their employees better, remembering that they are real people with real feelings, strikes many critics as inadequate, given the vastness of the industrial machine, the continual need for profits, and the disparity in power between employers and employees.Louisa is another victim of Gradgrind's repressive philosophy.She grows up emotionally stunted because she has not been allowed to develop her natural qualities of heart and imagination.Dickens also wanted to expose the bad state of relations between factory employers and their employees.His sympathies are clearly with the workers, as his portrait of Stephen Blackpool, the honest factory hand, shows.He thinks that the only things valuable in life are those that can be objectively measured.He believes that human behavior can be shaped for the better by the rational application of practical knowledge.