Balance; it is one attribute that almost everyone strives for within the trials and tribulations of everyday life. However, the delicate conditions needed to achieve such a plateau vary from person to person. It is Charles Dickens, in his novel Hard Times, who walks along a great tight rope in hopes of finding a medium between the multiple extremes. Using a satirical angle, Dickens tells the story of a community who becomes caught in the trap of one side of the spectrum, trapped with the cold, hard facts of life. In this world of rigid schedules and mind-numbing tasks, he is able to effectively display the absurdity of such circumstances.
One of the areas most greatly affected by such controversy is that of education. For many decades teachers have been struggling to find the balance between cramming students heads with facts, and letting their creativity and freewill dominate the learning process. Thomas Gradgrind, the schools headmaster, is one character who is unable to see the need for the balance. His entire educational system was based upon proven fact. Gradgrind goes as far as discouraging the imagination and wonder of the unknown in his students. For he believed that You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. Yet what he failed to realize was the importance of how creativity and emotion affected not only personal growth, but also the society as a whole. Without such stimuli, the children can become a form of walking drone, spitting out facts without analyzing and questioning them.
These zombies created in the school, grow up to become workers in the factories of the district. Toiling away for hours upon mindless tasks, these people are reduced to mere hands, painstakingly adding to the continuous hum of the factory. So many hundred hands in this Mill; so many hundred horse steam power. They are caught in the vicious cycle being treated as a mass, rather than individuals as they are. Each of the characters know something is absent from inside of their soul, but no one can figure out the exact missing piece. Yet to the reader it is an easy puzzle to solve, for a person is never complete without the ability to imagine and dream.
With the many gaping wholes in the society, such beliefs cannot be maintained without some disaster. It is the lack of vibrancy and energy that that comes along with the unforgiving facts that cause a town such as this to lose its steam and collapse. Thomas Gradgrind finally comes to this realization when his prized daughter, Louisa, confesses to him in a fit of anxiety. She dispelled the information of all of the pain and heartache that the system had brought upon her. Because of this sudden candidness of his daughter, Thomas takes to heart what she has to say. He reflects back on the mistakes of his past and is finally able to see the need for balance. Gradgrind can now start to incorporate the use of imagination and creativity into his life, as well as the lives of others around him.
By showing the extreme side of the spectrum in Hard Times, Dickens is able to express what an important role that equilibrium plays in society. Not only today but for years to come, people will be attempting to figure out a common balance point for which they can finally be at peace with themselves. Therefore, it must be remembered that in order to achieve the equilibrium that is desired, one must keep an open mind in order to prevent drifting too close to one extent or the other.