The Blue-collar Appeal of Hard Times Essay

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The Blue-collar Appeal of Hard Times

In Hard Times, Charles Dickens gives us a close-up look into what appears to be the ivory tower of the bourgeoisie of his day, yet these middle-class characters are viewed from a singular perspective, the perspective of those at the bottom of the social and economic system. Though Dickens’ characters tend to be well developed and presented with a thoroughly human quality, the stereotypical figure of arrogant and demanding Bounderby fails to accurately capture the motivations and attitudes of the typical successful businessman of the day and is an indication of the author’s political motives. Hard Times, rather than presenting a historically accurate picture of the extraordinary changes brought
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Dickens apparently expects his readers to accept his portrayal of Bounderby as being typical of this new breed of industrialists, but the character reflects none of the beginnings of modern scientific principles of management date emerging in the first half of the 19th century. By building on the principles of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, the works of Babbage, Jevons, Newman, Riccardo, Taylor, von Clauswitz, and others were not only helping shape the future of management philosophy, but were decisively impacting contemporary business thought throughout Dickens’ lifetime (George 67-78). No indication of these developments can be seen in the character of Bounderby. Author Archibald Coolidge writes that:

Dickens has a sort of preoccupation with money. But he calls businessmen villains and schemers. He almost never shows or describes them at work; when he does, the are show being crooked or at least harsh...It seems fairly clear that he did not analyze the problems of the businessman or those created by him—never analyzed the problems of creating, distributing, or getting wealth (140).

This unrealistic portrayal of businessmen is not uncommon for Dickens. Other works by Dickens are peppered with the characters of Ralph Nickleby, Hawk, Squeers, Gride, Quilp, Tigg, Pecksniff, Heep, Smallweed, Krook, Merdle, Flintwich, Casby, Fledgeby, Wegg, and Hexam. All reveal Dickens’ tendency to depict wealthy entrepreneurs as wicked and

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