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Hard Times

Hard Times


by Charles Dickens

Hard Times Philosophical Viewpoints: Utilitarianism and Classical Economics Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

[Coketown] contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next […]The jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail, the town-hall might have been either, or both, or anything else, for anything that appeared to the contrary in the graces of their construction. Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of the town; fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the immaterial. The M'Choakumchild school was all fact, and the school of design was all fact, and the relations between master and man were all fact, and everything was fact between the lying-in hospital and the cemetery, and what you couldn't state in figures, or show to be purchasable in the cheapest market and salable in the dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen. (1.5.2-4)

Statistics can be easily applied to Coketown because so many places, schedules, and lives are very similar there. Many of the random variables have been carefully controlled, so that reasonably accurate statistical science can take place.

Quote #2

Now, besides very many babies just able to walk, there happened to be in Coketown a considerable population of babies who had been walking against time towards the infinite world, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years and more. These portentous infants being alarming creatures to stalk about in any human society, the eighteen denominations incessantly scratched one another's faces and pulled one another's hair by way of agreeing on the steps to be taken for their improvement[…]they were pretty well united on the point that these unlucky infants were never to wonder. Body number one, said they must take everything on trust. Body number two, said they must take everything on political economy. Body number three, wrote leaden little books for them, showing how the good grown-up baby invariably got to the Savings-bank, and the bad grown-up baby invariably got transported. Body number four, under dreary pretences of being droll (when it was very melancholy indeed), made the shallowest pretences of concealing pitfalls of knowledge, into which it was the duty of these babies to be smuggled and inveigled. But, all the bodies agreed that they were never to wonder. (1.8.4)

The language is interesting here. The different churches think of themselves as adults and of the workers as "babies." In theory, these churches are using statistical analysis to collectively repress and improve the lives of these "babies." But at the same time, the narrator describes the churches themselves as completely childish: they "scratch" and "pull hair."

Quote #3

'after eight weeks of induction into the elements of Political Economy, [Sissy Jupe] had only yesterday been set right by a prattler three feet high, for returning to the question, 'What is the first principle of this science?' the absurd answer, 'To do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.' (1.9.3)

Sissy substitutes the Golden Rule for the principle of the profit motive. Instead of thinking about how to make the most money without regard for the consequences, Sissy shows her altruistic side. This conversation summarizes one of the main points of the novel in a few words: be generous, not selfish.

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