Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




Charles Dickens lived during a time when great change was occurring for both the lower and upper classes in Great Britain. The Industrial Revolution brought on new technologies that made it possible to mass-produce products of all kinds, effectively eliminating the need for great amounts of independent workers and farmers. Children's education, too, was a controversial topic that underwent much consideration in Parliament, especially because many of the country's children were working alongside the adults in the factories. Beginning in 1833, new legislation gave government-funded grants to schools and allowed children breaks during work hours specifically for their education, and that eventually led to the "reconstruction and expansion" in the Elementary Education Act of 1870 (Altick 157, Marcham 180). Dickens wrote Hard Times before the government fully funded public education in 1870, but he could already see how having an education based on the "figures and averages" that would get the school more funding from the government was slowly eliminating the need to nurture creativity (Dickens 284). As a political activist, he had plenty to say about the controversies regarding these reforms. Speaking for himself, Dickens affirmed he had "no fear of being misunderstood" because he always communicated exactly what he wanted to say (278). For him, the "powers and purposes of Fiction" were to "stimulate and rouse the public soul to a compassionate or indignant feeling"-not confuse them (284). Author G.K. Chesterton said it best in his biography of Dickens: "...the Dickens novel was popular, not because it was an unreal world, but because it was a real world; a world in which the soul could live" (Chesterton 100). While his novel, Hard Times, does address the conditions of the working class, its most blatant attack is on the pragmatic education of both lower and middle class children. When reading Hard Times, it would be very difficult to ignore Dickens' belief that "a nation without fancy ... never did, never can, never will, hold a great place under the sun," which he visibly portrays using the fictitious members of Coketown and the Gradgrind family (Dickens 277).



Faculty Mentor

Brian McCuskey

Departmental Honors Advisor

Christine Cooper-Rompato

Capstone Committee Member

Phebe Jensen