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A STEP BEYOND

TERM PAPER IDEAS

  • THE NOVEL
    1. What role did the Industrial Revolution play in the writing of Hard Times?
    2. How does the weekly serial form affect the structure of the novel?
    3. In what ways can Hard Times be considered a bitter novel? A hopeful novel?
    4. How does the social criticism of the novel compare with that of Bleak House? Of Little Dorrit?
    5. In Chapter 4 of Book the Second, the narrator comments, "Private feeling must yield to the common cause." Explain this in terms of the novel's events and relate it to a current situation.
  • CHARACTERS
    1. Compare and contrast Bounderby and Gradgrind.
    2. In what ways can Stephen be considered a martyr?
    3. Who is the main character of Hard Times? Defend your choice.
    4. How are the various levels of society represented by the characters?
    5. Comment on the significance of Louisa's remark to her father, "You have been so careful of me that I never had a child's heart."
    6. What role does Sissy Jupe play in the novel?
    7. Compare the characterization of Sleary and his troupe with the Crummles acting company of Nicholas Nickleby.
    8. How is Gradgrind educated in the course of the novel?
    9. How does Mrs. Gradgrind function in the novel?

    10. Is Harthouse a round or a flat character? Explain.
    11. How are Sissy and Bitzer compared early in the novel? Why? Is the comparison developed?
    12. How is the parent/child relationship handled in the novel? Pay special attention to the Gradgrinds, the Jupes, and Bounderby and Mrs. Pegler.
    13. Describe the effect Sissy Jupe has on the lives of three of the major characters.
    14. In what ways is Mr. Jupe's presence felt throughout the novel? How does he affect one of the story's chief morals?
    15. Chart the progress of Mrs. Sparsit's relationship with Bounderby.
    16. Why is Bounderby called "the Bully of Humility"?
    17. In what ways is Stephen a realistic character? In what ways is he not?
    18. Compare M'Choakumchild's school and its theory of education to that of Wackford Squeers's in Nicholas Nickleby or to some other novel which uses this topic.
    19. In what ways does Bitzer prove himself to be the prize Gradgrind pupil?
    20. How does Dickens use names to signify his characters' traits?
    21. How does the presence of Mrs. Pegler add suspense to the novel?
    22. Looking at Dickens's life, find out which of the characters in Hard Times have autobiographical overtones.
  • LITERARY TOPICS
    1. How is irony used in the death of Stephen Blackpool?
    2. Discuss the ways in which Coketown is seen metaphorically as a jungle.
    3. How is coincidence used in the novel? Is it beneficial or harmful to the realism of the book?
    4. How does Dickens use comedy in the novel? Cite at least five examples.
    5. In what way does Christianity affect the tone of the novel? What Christian symbols are used?
    6. In what ways is Hard Times a satire? Explain.
    7. How are colors used as symbols in the characters of Sissy and Bitzer?
    8. Discuss the symbolism of the circus and how it relates to the novel as a whole.
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    1. Research the efforts to organize unions in the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. How are they similar to those described in Hard Times? How are they different?
    2. In what ways does the novel speak to us today? Are any of the issues presented by Dickens still with us? Which ones?

 

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