Hard Times

In Charles Dickens' novel Hard Times a conflict between Tom and his father Mr. Gradgrind is caused by childhood devoid of fancy. Tom rebels from such a past by gambling, drinking and other unsavory habits. This father/son conflict enhances the meaning of the work by showing how an improper upbringing can lead to failure in adult life.

Mr. Gradgrind's whole philosophy on life was that life itself should be composed entirely of facts and nothing else. He believed the only way to make a successful man was to strip away the very essence of his childhood, fun and fancy. Gradgrind forced his beliefs upon his children Louisa and Tom and while Louisa simply became incapable of love, Tom vowed for vengeance against his father's dogma. Tom plans to enjoy life and wreak havoc at the same time when he moves out of their house the Stone Lodge. He finances his expenses through Bounderby whom he manipulates by incorporating his needs to seem in his sister's favor. Tom also uses his sister's great love for him by preparing her to marry Bounderby as this will help in increasing his financial means. Tom lies to Stephen Blackpool telling him to loiter around the bank for a job opportunity when in fact he is preparing to frame Stephen for a robbery he commits.

Tom does not go unpunished for his evil deeds for his planting the seeds of dishonesty he reaps the harvest of guilt and isolation. When the villagers bring Blackpool out of Old Hell Shaft he clears himself of the robbery by naming Tom as the man who told him to reside outside of the bank. Tom attempts to escape from the country and after a brief encounter with the interfering Bitzer he manages to leave and never return. Tom finishes the rest of his life as solitary depressed man his last words pleading for forgiveness.

In Hard Times Dickens' portrayal of the conflict between Gradgrind and his son contributes to the message against the Utilitarian school of thought. Since the child never learned the fancies of society the man abused them to the point of self-destruction. Tom's life was led down the path to tragedy by his father's strict interpretation of the All-Fact No-Fancy way of "life".