Utilitarianism "Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders,
four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in spring.
" A perfect example of a
product of utilitarian education, Bitzer defines a horse off the top of his head in a split
second. Utilitarianism is the assumption that human beings act in a way that highlights
their own self interest. It is based on factuality and leaves little room for imagination.
Dickens provides three vivid examples of this utilitarian logic in Hard Times. The first;
Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, one of the main characters in the book, was the principal of a
school in Coketown. He was a firm believer in utilitarianism and instilled this philosophy
into the students at the school from a very young age, as well as his own children. Mr.
Josiah Bounderby was also a practitioner of utilitarianism, but was more interested in the
profit that stemmed from it. At the other end of the perspective, a group of circus
members, who are the total opposite of utilitarians, are added by Dickens to provide a
sharp contrast from the ideas of Mr. Bounderby and Mr. Gradgrind. Thomas Gradgrind
Sr., a father of five children, has lived his life by the book and never strayed from his
philosophy that life is nothing more than facts and statistics. He has successfully
incorporated this belief into the school system of Coketown, and has tried his best to do
so with his own children. The educators see children as easy targets just waiting to be
filled with information. They did not consider, however, the children’s need for fiction,
poetry, and other fine arts that are used to expand children’s minds, all of which are
essential today in order to produce well-rounded human beings through the educational
process. One has to wonder how different the story would be if Gradgrind did not run the
school. How can you give a utilitarian man such as Gradgrind such power over a town? I
do like how Dickens structures the book to make one ask obvious questions such as these.
Dickens does not tell us much about the success of the other students of the school
besides Bitzer, who is fairly successful on paper, but does not have the capacity as a
person to deal with life’s everyday struggles. Gradgrinds two oldest children, Tom and
Louisa, are examples of how this utilitarian method failed miserably. These children were
never given the opportunity to think for themselves, experience fun things in life, or even