by Charles Dickens
Hard Times Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
[…] there was a native organisation in Coketown itself, whose members were to be heard of in the House of Commons every session, indignantly petitioning for acts of parliament that should make these people religious by main force. Then came the Teetotal Society, who complained that these same people would get drunk, and showed in tabular statements that they did get drunk, and proved at tea parties that no inducement, human or Divine (except a medal), would induce them to forego their custom of getting drunk. Then came the chemist and druggist, with other tabular statements, showing that when they didn't get drunk, they took opium. Then came the experienced chaplain of the jail, with more tabular statements, outdoing all the previous tabular statements, and showing that the same people would resort to low haunts, hidden from the public eye, where they heard low singing and saw low dancing, and mayhap joined in it; and where A. B., aged twenty-four next birthday, and committed for eighteen months' solitary, had himself said (not that he had ever shown himself particularly worthy of belief) his ruin began, as he was perfectly sure and confident that otherwise he would have been a tip-top moral specimen. (1.5.6)
It is striking how much those in power want to use that power to "better" the workers in Coketown. The language of coercion is unremitting: "make these people religious by main force" and "induce" them to stop drinking; is it ethical to force people to act better? How much force? Meanwhile, it is clear from the problems of alcohol, drug use, and nightlife that they describe that all these people are trying to do is find a little escape from their hard lives.
Old Stephen might have passed for a particularly intelligent man in his condition. Yet he was not […] Thousands of his compeers could talk much better than he, at any time. He was a good power-loom weaver, and a man of perfect integrity. What more he was, or what else he had in him, if anything, let him show for himself. (1.10.4)
Stephen's honesty and purity outweighs any other positive quality that anyone else might possess.
'Thou hast been that to me, Rachael, through so many year: thou hast done me so much good, and heartened of me in that cheering way, that thy word is a law to me. Ah, lass, and a bright good law! Better than some real ones.' 'Never fret about them, Stephen,' she answered quickly, and not without an anxious glance at his face. 'Let the laws be.' 'Yes,' he said, with a slow nod or two. 'Let 'em be. Let everything be. Let all sorts alone. 'Tis a muddle, and that's aw.' (1.10.23-25)
Here, the theme between divine and moral "laws" and the ones created by men and by Parliament is first introduced. Divine (Biblical) laws are consistently shown to make sense and be intuitive, while the man-made laws do nothing but prop up special interests and oppress the weak.