Hard times is set out in three different books: The Sowing; The Reaping; The Garnering. They are named so as it has a special reference to the education and upbringing of children. The titles collectively underlines the basic plot. It suggests that the grounding children received in their formative years would directly affect their adult lives. This comes evident as pupils of the Gradgrind system of education is not ready to tackle situations which require imagination or experience in life.
In Hard Times the two characters that are most affected by the Gradgrind system of education are Tom and Louisa Gradgrind. The Gradgrind system of education is the reason why Tom and Louisa Gradgrind are lacking in imagination and therefore are not ready to tackle every day human life. The Gradgrind education system was very common in Victorian times and was probably devised by the many rich powerful people ready to employ the pupils once graduated. As this type of education teaches its pupil's to be a passive unthinking work force, therefore the employers could manipulate their minds, doing whatever they were told. The system forces the pupils to intake pure hard facts, nothing else, therefore not exercising the imagination at all. Leading the pupils to be lost in the surrounding world when a difficult problem requiring experience or maturity arises, as the Gradgrind system of education denies access to this knowledge.
The Gradgrind system of education seems to wipe out any chance of any fiction or fantasy in the minds of the pupils. If Louisa or Tom happen to even have the slightest hint of fantasy or fiction it would be immediately be destroyed by their father who was a teacher of facts and facts alone. This is proved when Louisa and Tom were caught by their father peeping into a circus ring. When they where caught Mr Gradgrind immediately told them off, later asking "what can you possibly want to know about circus shows?” This implies that children shouldn’t see the circus as it doesn’t teach you anything. From this we can assume that that the children studying the Gradgrind system of education can’t do the many things that are enjoyable in their lives as it would not teach them anything. This view is not healthy towards the pupils as the system is denying them the enjoyment of childhood, therefore affecting their adulthood in later life as all they would want to do is earn money, and be, less experienced in the virtues of life. Although maybe it doesn’t teach you anything educational, it teaches you about life, how to enjoy yourself how to be a well rounded person. Mr Gradgrind was again suppressing his son and daughter’ imagination, not letting them experience normal everyday life. This suppression of imagination leads to curiosity as shown by Louisa as when she was told off after watching the horses, she states that she 'just wanted to see what it was like', which shows that she was curious about it. This curiosity could be dangerous in later life as we see in Louisa that she ventures in a risky relationship once married.
In contrast to the Gradgrind children, Sissy Jupe was not even in the slightest affected by the Gradgrind system of education. Sissy, daughter of a ‘horse breaker’, has managed to keep all her imagination throughout the book and hence become the so called heroine of the book. She is unlike Tom and Louisa who have almost lost trace of any imagination in their mind. Sissy the least educated person in Hard Times, yet is the only person to understand Louisa when she decided to marry Bounderby. She takes pity on her as she sees the petty motive of marrying. This wasn’t taken kindly by Louisa although she knew that she was right. Later on in the book Sissy makes amends with Louisa, making Louisa feel good when she admits it was her fault that their relationship got distant over this matter, which is was not.
Dickens is trying to convey that to be a well rounded person such as Sissy, does not need the factual requirement of the Gradgrind system of education, in fact the totally opposite. In Sissy the chance to let her own imagination wonder