Dickens's Treatment of Education and Social Mobility in Hard Times

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Hard Times" is the portrait of a rapidly changing society in the grasp of forces it has unleashed upon itself. Written in 1854, the novel depicts the various forces shaping Victorian England and how this affected social structure and mobility as well as education…

Introduction


Utilitarianism was the brainchild of Jeremy Bentham ( 1748-1832), a personally eccentric philosopher and social reformer, who held that virtue was a matter of utility: an action was good if it helped to bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Promulgation of that happiness was the function of the State, and education of the populace and extension of political franchise were fundamental tenets of Benthamism. Political Economy, on the other hand, was a socio-economic system deriving from Adam Smith ( 1723-90) and David Ricardo ( 1772- 1823), whose disciples taught that the distribution of wealth was governed by immutable laws of nature. National prosperity depended on the profits of industrialists, and the wages of workers could not rise without jeopardizing economic harmony, to the detriment of workers and industrialists alike. Because the pursuit of individual self-interest was held to promote the general welfare, the duty of the state was to adopt a policy of laissez-faire, in order to allow that inevitable process to operate freely, without interference. ( Dickens, Schilicke, 1989)
Dickens was vociferous against these theories and as he wrote to Charles Knight, he directed his satire " against those who see figures and averages and nothing else----the representatives of the wickedest and the most enormous vice of this time." (30 December 1854, Letters, 7: 492). ...
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