Treats of Oliver Twist`s growth, education, and board

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Treats of Oliver Twist`s growth, education, and board
LIT & LAB pp.480 – 481 – OLIVER TWIST (1838)
All poor people should have the alternative of being starved by a gradual process in the house,
or by a quick one out of it.
Perhaps inspired by the passing of the Poor Law in 1834, which stopped government aid to the poor
unless they entered work-houses, he created this story of powerful emotional appeal and social criticism.
The novel begins in the early 1800s. A young woman arrives at a workhouse in a small town north of
London; here she gives birth to a boy and then dies. The child is given the name Oliver Twist and is put
into a workhouse orphanage until the age of nine, when he is transferred to the workhouse itself. All the
young boys are mistreated and half-starved. When Oliver asks for more food he is thrown out, and
becomes apprenticed to the local undertaker. Here again he is ill-treated and after months of abuse,
desperate, Oliver decides to run away and heads for London where he falls among young thieves who
are 'instructed' by the old Jew Fagin and by other scoundrels and pickpockets. All of them work hard to
convert Oliver into a thief but the first time he is sent out with two other boys to steal, he is horrified to
see them pick the pocket of an old gentleman, and runs away. An angry mob of people corner him,
suspecting that he is the thief, and he is arrested, Fortunately for him Mr Brownlow, the pickpocket's
victim, is convinced of his innocence and takes him to his house.
But Fagin plots to recapture him, for while the boy is free his secrets are in danger. He engages Bill
Sikes, a brutal robber, and Nancy, his mistress, also a member of the gang, to bring Oliver back. They
succeed in returning him to Fagin's care.
The gang of thieves oblige him to burgle a house, but during the robbery he cries out to warn the people
living there; shots are fired, and Oliver is wounded while Sikes runs away. The owner of the house, Mrs
Maylie, and her pretty adopted niece Rose are moved to pity and take care of him.
Oliver spends a serene summer with them in the countryside, but Fagin and a mysterious man named
Monks are determined to recapture Oliver. While in Fagin's den they lay plots to do this, Nancy
overhears them and feeling compassion for the child, she meets Rose secretly and informs her about the
conspiracy without giving away the gang. During their secret meeting, a member of Fagin's gang
overhears the conversation. When Sikes finds out about Nancy's betrayal, he murders her and flees
London. Followed by an angry mob, he accidentally hangs himself while trying to escape. In the
meantime the other members of the gang are arrested.
In the end Mr Brownlow is reunited with Oliver by the Maylies and decides to find Monks to discover
the truth about Oliver's family. He learns that Monks is Oliver's half-brother and that their father, Mr
Leeford, was unhappily married to a rich woman and had a love affair with Oliver's mother, Agnes
Fleming. Monks had previously paid the gang leader to turn Oliver into a thief because he wanted to
discredit Oliver's reputation in order to exclude him from their deceased father's rich inheritance.
Mr Brownlow obliges Monks to give Oliver his share. But there is another discovery: Rose is Agnes's
younger sister, which means she is Oliver's aunt.
At the end of the novel Fagin is hanged for his crimes, Mr Brownlow adopts Oliver, and they and the
Maylies go to live in an idyllic house in the countryside.
On many levels Oliver is not a believable character as his 'purity' is absolute and idealised, exactly like
the countryside in relation to the big city, and the novel's conclusion is careful to tie his purity to the
discovery that he is not a poor orphan but a disinherited member of the 'noble' middle classes. However,
one may say that it is exactly because of this idealised quality that Oliver as a character managed to
appeal to Victorian readers' sentiments, and probably this way Dickens's social criticism had a better
chance of effectively challenging their prejudices.
It is only when all identities and social genealogies are known and order restored that the story can
achieve its happy ending. But though the process of revelation is long and hard, Oliver's destiny is
already written in his name right from the very beginning. Indeed the name 'Twist', though given by
accident, alludes to the incredible reversals of fortune that the character will experience throughout the
( “Treats of Oliver Twist's growth, education, and board.”)
For the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic course of treachery and
deception. He was brought up by hand. The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was
duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities.
Durante gli otto o dieci mesi che seguirono, Oliviero fu vittima di un sistematico complesso di
tradimenti e di inganni. Fu allevato artificialmente. La sua misera e disperata condizione di orfano
fu debitamente riferita dalle autorità dell'ospizio alle autorità della parrocchia.
The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there was no
female then domiciled in “the house” who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the
consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with
humility, that there was not.
Le autorità della parrocchia si informarono solennemente presso le autorità dell'ospizio se non vi
fosse una donna ricoverata nella “casa” la quale fosse in condizioni da poter offrire a Oliviero Twist
le cure e il nutrimento che gli erano necessari. Le autorità dell'ospizio risposero umilmente in modo
Upon this, the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be
“farmed”, or, in other words, that he should be despatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles
off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all
day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental
superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of
sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week.
In conseguenza le autorità della parrocchia decisero magnanimamente e umanamente che Oliviero
sarebbe stato “messo a pensione” o, in altre parole, che sarebbe stato spedito in una dipendenza
dell'ospizio, distante circa tre miglia, dove venti o trenta altri giovani contravventori alla legge sui
poveri si rotolavano tutto il giorno per terra, senza essere oppressi dal troppo cibo o dall'eccessivo
vestiario, sotto la materna sovrintendenza di una donna attempata, la quale ospitava i colpevoli
dietro il compenso di sette pence e mezzo a testa per settimana.
Sevenpence-halfpenny's worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for
sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable.
Sette pence e mezzo per settimana costituiscono una discreta pensione per un bambino; molte cose
si possono acquistare con sette pence e mezzo, tante quante possono bastare per procurargli una
certa grevezza di stomaco e farlo star male.
The elderly female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children;
and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the
greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to
even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them.
Ma la donna attempata era saggia ed esperta, sapeva benissimo quello che ci vuole per i bambini e
aveva un intuito formidabile per capire quel che ci voleva per lei stessa. Teneva dunque per proprio
uso e consumo la maggior parte della pensione settimanale, e dava alla crescente generazione
parrocchiale assai meno di quello che le era stato assegnato in origine.
Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental
Trovava così ancor maggiori profondità nelle profondità più abissali e si dimostrava maestra di
filosofia sperimentale.
Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a
horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he got his own horse
down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rapacious
animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his
first comfortable bait of air.
Tutti conoscono la storia di un altro filosofo sperimentale inventore di una celebre teoria intorno
alla possibilità che il suo cavallo aveva di vivere senza mangiare, il quale la dimostrò così bene da
ridurre il bravo animale alla razione di un filo di paglia al giorno, e ne avrebbe indiscutibilmente
fatto un essere tutto spirito e levità, capace di viver di nulla, se il cavallo suddetto non fosse morto
ventiquattr'ore prima di iniziare la sua dieta di aria pura.
Unfortunately for the experimental philosophy of the female to whose protecting care Oliver Twist
was delivered over, a similar result usually attended the operation of her system; for at the very
moment when a child had contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest
possible food, it did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened
from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident; in any one
of which cases, the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world, and there
gathered to the fathers it had never known in this.
Disgraziatamente per la filosofia sperimentale della donna alle cui amorevoli cure fu affidato
Oliviero Twist, un risultato assai simile seguiva in genere all'applicazione del suo sistema; perché,
proprio quando un ragazzino era riuscito a vivere con la minima porzione del cibo meno nutriente,
accadeva invariabilmente otto volte e mezzo su dieci che si ammalava di stenti e di freddo, o cadeva
nel fuoco per incuria, o soffocava per disgrazia. E in tutti questi casi lo sciagurato esserino era di
solito chiamato in un mondo migliore dove ritrovava i genitori che non aveva mai conosciuto in
Occasionally, when there was some more than usually interesting inquest upon a parish child who
had been overlooked in turning up a bedstead, or inadvertently scalded to death when there
happened to be a washing – though the latter accident was very scarce, anything approaching to a
washing being of rare occurrence in the farm – the jury would take it into their heads to ask
troublesome questions, or the parishioners would rebelliously affix their signatures to a
remonstrance. But these impertinences were speedily checked by the evidence of the surgeon, and
the testimony of the beadle; the former of whom had always opened the body and found nothing
inside (which was very probable indeed), and the latter of whom invariably swore whatever the
parish wanted; which was very self-devotional.
Ogni tanto, quando v'era un'inchiesta più severa del solito su di un fanciullo di parrocchia caduto
dal letto o scottato mortalmente in un giorno di bucato - incidente questo assai raro, perché molto di
rado si faceva nell'asilo qualche cosa di simile a un bucato - al giurì saltava l'estro di fare alcune
domande indiscrete e i parrocchiani in rivolta apponevano le loro firme in calce a una protesta. Ma
simili impertinenze erano subito soffocate dalla testimonianza del medico e dalle dichiarazioni del
mazziere parrocchiale: il primo aveva sempre fatto l'autopsia del cadaverino senza trovarvi nulla
(cosa che, con ogni probabilità, era esattissima); il secondo giurava sempre tutto quello che la
parrocchia gli faceva dire, dimostrando così la sua profonda devozione.
Besides, the board made periodical pilgrimages to the farm, and always sent the beadle the day
before, to say they were going. The children were neat and clean to behold, when they went; and
what more would the people have!
Inoltre la direzione faceva visite periodiche all'asilo mandando invariabilmente il bidello il giorno
prima ad avvertire del suo arrivo. Così che i bambini si presentavano lindi e puliti. E che cosa si
poteva pretendere di più?
It cannot be expected that this system of farming would produce any very extraordinary or luxuriant
crop. Oliver Twist's ninth birth-day found him a pale thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature,
and decidedly small in circumference.
Evidentemente questo sistema non poteva produrre una messe abbondante e rigogliosa. Giunto al
suo nono anno, Oliviero Twist era un ragazzino pallido e sottile, un po' scarso di statura e
scarsissimo di circonferenza.
But nature or inheritance had implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver's breast. It had had plenty of
room to expand, thanks to the spare diet of the establishment; and perhaps to this circumstance may
be attributed his having any ninth birth-day at all.
Ma la natura o l'ereditarietà avevano messo nel petto di Oliviero uno spirito ben radicato il quale
aveva potuto espandersi in lungo e in largo grazie alla parsimoniosa dieta dell'asilo; e forse deve
attribuirsi a questo il fatto singolare di essere arrivato ai nove anni.
Be this as it may, however, it was his ninth birth-day; and he was keeping it in the coal-cellar with a
select party of two other young gentlemen, who, after participating with him in a sound thrashing,
had been locked up for atrociously presuming to be hungry, when Mrs. Mann, the good lady of the
house, was unexpectedly startled by the apparition of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, striving to undo the
wicket of the garden-gate.
Comunque sia, era giunto al suo nono compleanno e lo festeggiava standosene chiuso nello stanzino
del carbone insieme con una scelta rappresentanza composta di altri due signorini i quali, dopo
essere precipitati con lui nei vortici di una solenne bastonatura, erano stati ficcati là dentro per
l'atroce misfatto di avere dichiarato di aver fame. Proprio in quel momento la signora Mann, l'ottima
direttrice della casa, fu colpita all'improvviso dalla comparsa del signor Bumble, mazziere
parrocchiale, il quale si forzava di aprire il cancello del giardino.
2. Read the text carefully and decide which paragraph/s make up the parts of the story-pattern.
1. Oliver completed nine years in the workhouse. 4th paragraph.
2. Religious authorities did not effectively control the way children were treated. 3rd paragraph.
3. Oliver Twist was looked after by an elderly woman in the workhouse. 1st paragraph.
4. The conditions in the branch workhouse were really miserable. 2nd paragraph.
Now summarise each part in one or two sentences.
Suggestion: Oliver was shifted from his birth place to a branch workhouse. because the management
had become aware of the inadequacy of the female staff in the institution to care and nourish the boy.
The conditions in this workhouse were not better than the ones prevailing in the other institution.
Oliver was looked after by an elderly woman called Mrs Mann who pocketed the greater part of the
weekly money granted to each child by the parish. The children under her care were malnourished
and neglected. Oliver completed nine years in this workhouse, On his birthday the beadle arrived at
the place in the morning. Religious authorities didn't effectively control the way children were treated.
3. Underline words and phrases used to describe Oliver and the children. Oliver is said to be "the victim of
a systematic course of treachery and deception; the hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan
(lines 1-4); he is a pale, malnourished child (lines 54-56). The children are considered "juvenile
offenders" (line 11) and "culprits" (line 14).
1. What image of childhood emerges from this description? The image of innocent childhood emerges
from this description; these children have become puppets in the hands of adult, ruthless people.
2. What is the function of this description? To build up a realistic picture of the scene, to make the reader
side with the poor children and to let the reader know about their terrible conditions.
4. Comment on the role of the parish authorities and the workhouse authorities. Then state the relationship
existing between them. The parish authorities checked the situation existing within the workhouse with
only apparent dignity (lines 49-50), but they really let the workhouse authorities exploit the children.
5. Dickens makes fun of the most distinguishing features of the characters by exaggerating a particular
element or using absurd analogies.
1. Go through the text once more and underline with different colours exaggerations and absurd elements
linked to the world of the boys and to that of the adults.
Should be dispatched (line 10)
Juvenile offenders (line 11),
Culprits (line 14)
Parish child... farm (lines 38-44).
The elderly woman was a woman of wisdom and experience... herself (lines 17-19).
She appropriated... her own use (lines 19-22).
The parable of the 'experimental philosopher' referred to the experiment of the workhouse authorities on
these children (lines 24-37).
2. What feelings characterise the two worlds?
Submission, fear, starvation characterise the world of children.
Power, lack of humanity characterise the world of adults.
6. Focus on the narrator. Is he a voice outside or inside the text? Whose point of view is adopted? Is the
narrator impartial or does he feel pity for the boys showing an ironical dislike for the adults? The narrator is
a voice outside the novel; the children's point of view is mainly employed, The narrator feels pity for
the boys showing an ironical dislike for the adults' world (lines 4-22; 38-51; 54-62).
7. Here are some linguistic devices used by Dickens in his novels. See how they have been employed in this
1. He repeats the same word/s and sentence structure. Sevenpence-halfpenny (lines 15-16); parish
authorities (lines 4; 8); workhouse authorities (lines 5; 7); experimental philosopher (lines 23; 24; 29);
washing (lines 40-41); ninthbirth-day (lines 53; 57; 58).
2. He expresses the same concept more than once using different words. The words related to the adults'
exploitation of children are repeated in the 1st and the 2nd paragraphs.
3. He makes a long list of details, not all of them strictly necessary. The parable of the experimental
philosopher (lines 24-37).
4. He uses contrasting images. The children's world / the adults' world, Submission/power.
5. Identify the theme of the passage. Dickens attacked his contemporary workhouses run by parishes;
they had been created to give relief to the poor, but they really exploited their inhabitants making
them live in appalling conditions.
9. Class discussion
Discuss this episode in terms of social reform: does it merely draw attention to the conditions of poor
orphans or does it call for political action? If you think it does, what do you think it is? Students' speaking
10. You have to write a short essay for your school magazine about your recent visit to a children's home in
Brazil. What would you include? The following questions may help you.
1. Why did you decide to visit such a place during your summer holidays?
2. What impressed you most?
3 What conditions did the children live in?
4. Who were their tutors?
5. How did these children spend their time?
6. Did they attend lessons? If so, what was their school like?
7 What did their daily diet consist of?
8. Were you a different person when you left that place? Why?
Student's writing activity.
CH. 2
This is probably the most famous episode in the novel. The setting is the dining hall of the
workhouse where Oliver spent the first part of his childhood.
Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of slow starvation for three months: at last they got so
voracious and wild with hunger, that one boy, who was tall for his age, and hadn't been used to that sort of thing (for
his father had kept a small cook-shop), hinted darkly to his companions, that unless he had another basin of gruel per
diem, he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy who slept next him, who happened to be a weakly
youth of tender age.
Per tre mesi Oliver e i suoi compagni soffrirono le torture di una lenta inedia; alla fine la fame li rese così voraci e
selvaggi, che uno di loro, molto sviluppato per la sua età, e che non era abituato a quei sistemi perché il padre aveva
avuto una piccola trattoria, confidò cupamente ai compagni che, se non gli davano un'altra scodella di farinata ( farina
di orzo o avena cotta nell’acqua o nel latte) al giorno, una notte o l'altra avrebbe finito col mangiarsi il ragazzo che
dormiva accanto a lui il quale per 1'appunto era debole e piccolino.
He had a wild, hungry eye; and they implicitly believed him. A council was held; lots were cast who should walk up
to the master after supper that evening, and ask for more; and it fell to Oliver Twist.
Nel dir così lanciava occhiate affamate e selvagge, e gli altri gli credettero. Tennero consiglio e tirarono a sorte il
nome di quello che quella sera, dopo la distribuzione della minestra, sarebbe dovuto andare dal direttore e chiederne
ancora; toccò a Oliver Twist.
The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his
pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short
Arrivò la sera; i ragazzi si misero ai loro posti. Il direttore, nella sua uniforme di cuoco, si mise accanto al pentolone;
le due povere che lo assistevano si schierarono dietro di lui; la farinata fu servita e una lunga preghiera di
ringraziamento fu recitata su quella breve refezione.
The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him.
Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to
the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity: 'Please, sir, I want some more.'
La farinata scomparve; i ragazzi si parlavano all'orecchio accennando a Oliver, mentre quelli che gli erano accanto lo
urtavano col gomito. Per quanto fosse un bambino, Oliver era esasperato dalla fame e spinto alla temerità
(sconsiderato) dalla disperazione; si alzò e, avvicinatosi al direttore con la scodella e il cucchiaio in mano, disse un po'
spaventato dalla sua stessa audacia:
- Per piacere, signore, ne vorrei ancora.
The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for
some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with
fear.’ What!' said the master at length, in a faint voice.’ Please, sir,' replied Oliver, 'I want some more.’
Il direttore era un omaccione grasso e solido; tuttavia impallidì. Per qualche secondo contemplò attonito quel piccolo
ribelle e poi si aggrappò alla pentola per sostenersi. Le assistenti erano paralizzate dalla meraviglia, i ragazzi dalla
- Che cosa? - disse finalmente il direttore con voce fioca.
- Per piacere, signore, - ripeté Oliviero, - ne vorrei ancora.
The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.
The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr. Bumble rushed into the room in great excitement, and
addressing the gentleman in the high chair, said, 'Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for
Il direttore menò un gran colpo di mestolo in testa a Oliver, lo imprigionò (immobilizzare) fra le sue braccia e chiamò
con grandi strida il mazziere (sagrestano).
II Consiglio era riunito in solenne conclave quando il signor Bumble si precipitò nella stanza tutto eccitato e,
rivolgendosi al signore sulla poltrona più alta, disse:
- Signor Limbkins, vi chiedo scusa: Oliver Twist ne ha chiesta ancora!
There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance. 'For MORE!' said Mr. Limbkins. 'Compose
yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper
allotted by the dietary?' 'He did, sir,' replied Bumble.’ That boy will be hung,' said the gentleman in the white
waistcoat. 'I know that boy will be hung.'
Tutti sobbalzarono, l'orrore era dipinto su ogni volto.
- Ancora? - disse il signor Limbkins. - Calmatevi, Bumble, e rispondetemi chiaramente. Devo intendere che dopo aver
consumato la minestra concessa dal regolamento ne ha chiesta ancora?
- Proprio così, signore, - rispose, Bumble.
- Quel ragazzo finirà sulla forca, - sentenziò il signore in panciotto bianco. - Sono sicuro che finirà sulla forca.
This is a brief summary of what happens.
 Oliver and his companions are starving and crazy with hunger.
 One day they draw lots in order to decide which of them should ask for more food after a
 Oliver is chosen.
 He is so hungry that he finds the courage to get up and ask for more.
 His action causes the greatest astonishment in the master, the beadle and the people on the
1. characters
1) Focus on the characters.
a) Assign the characters to the two following groups.
The boys: Oliver, a tall boy, a sickly boy, and all their companions.
The officials: the master and his assistants, Mr Bumble the beadle, and Mr Limbkins of the
b) For each character note down words and phrases which describe:
- general condition/feelings before Oliver's request;
- reactions after Oliver's request.
b) - The boys (Oliver, his companions):
general'conditionlfeelings before Oliver's request: "suffered the torture of starvation for three
months"; "voracious, wild with hunger"; "weakly youth of tender age”; "wild, hungry eye";
"desperate with hunger, reckless with misery"; "alarmed at his own temerity";
reactions after Oliver's request: paralysed "with fear".
- The officials (the master, the beadle, the board):
general conditionlfeelings before Oliver's request: "the master, in his cook's uniform,
stationed himself at the copper"; he is "a fat, healthy man"; "his pauper assistants ranged
themselves behind him"; reactions after Oliver's request: "turned very pale"; "gazed in
stupefied astonishment" and spoke "in a faint voice"; "The assistants were paralysed with
wonder"; Mr Bumble was "in great excitement"; the board showed "Horror" on their faces.
c) Which group do you think the writer sides with? Give reasons for your choice.
c) The writer clearly sides with the boys who are described in a pitiful plight, while the
officials are shown as a cruel, selfish, insensitive lot.
d) Can the reader form a different opinion from the narrator's about the characters? Explain why or
why not.
d) The reader can only share the narrator's opinion because his is the only point of view from
which the characters are presented.
2) Focus on the language.
Here are some typical features of Dickens's style, that is to say, the way he uses language to create
characters, express himself and his ideas. Give an example for each feature you can recognise in the
1 He juxtaposes contrasting images and opposites.
2 He uses hyperbole: i.e., he magnifies and exaggerates incidents and details.
3 He repeats words / phrases / sentence structure.
4 He often uses adjectives and nouns in pairs or in groups of three.
5 He mixes sad and comic details.
3. All the features in the list are present in the text. Dickens
juxtaposes contrasting images (the starving, desperate boys and the fat, healthy master and
self-righteous member of the board)
and opposite words ("long grace... short commons"; "with wonder... with fear";
he uses hyperbole (all the officials' reactions to Oliver's request are clearly hyperbolic; they
are disproportionate to Oliver's offence; also the gentlemen's prediction about Oliver's future,
"that boy will be hung", is hyperbolic);
he repeats phrases and sentences : ("ask for more"; "Please sir, I want some more"; "That
boy will be hung";
he uses adjectives in pairs : "voracious and wild with hunger"; "wild, hungry eye"; "desperate
with hunger, reckless with misery"; "fat, healthy man";
he mixes sad and comic details: the description of the starving boys is sad but the hint of one
boy that he might eat another boy if he didn't have more food and the fact that his
companions believed him is rather comic, Oliver asking for more is a pitiful figure but the
master's and the other officials' reactions are rather comic.
3) What do you think is the main target of the writer's criticism?
The main target of the writer's criticism is the ill-treatment of the orphans by the very people
who should look after them.
Ch. XVIII – Oliver shows his native purity to his disreputable friends
He looked down on Oliver, with a thoughtful countenance, for a brief space; and then, raising his head, and heaving a
gentle sigh, said, half in abstraction, and half to Master Bates:
"What a pity it is he isn't a prig!"
Abbassò per un momento lo sguardo su Oliver con aria pensosa; poi, alzando la testa ed emettendo un lieve sospiro,
disse, metà tra sé e metà a Charley Bates:
- Che peccato che non sia uno zerbinotto.
"Ah!" said Master Charles Bates; "he don't know what's good for him."
The Dodger sighed again, and resumed his pipe: as did Charley Bates. They both smoked, for some seconds, in
"I suppose you don't even know what a prig is?" said the Dodger (imbroglione) mournfully.
"I think I know that," replied Oliver, looking up. "It's a th -- ; you're one, are you not?" inquired Oliver, checking
- Ah! - disse messer Charley Bates, - non sa vivere.
Dodger sospirò ancora e riprese la pipa, come pure fece Charley Bates. Per alcuni secondi fumarono entrambi in
- Scommetterei che non sai nemmeno che cosa sia uno zerbinotto, - disse poi Dodger.
- Credo di saperlo, - rispose Oliver alzando lo sguardo. - È un lad... E tu lo sei, non è vero?” continuò il fanciullo
facendosi forza.
"I am," replied the Dodger. "I'd scorn to be anything else.” […]
“Why don't you put yourself under Fagin, Oliver?", said Charley Bates.
"And make your fortun' out of hand?" added the Dodger, with a grin.
"And so be able to retire on your property, and do the genteel: as I mean to, in the very next leap-year but four that
ever comes, and the forty-second Tuesday in Trinityweek," [added] Charley.
- Sicuro che lo sono, - rispose Dodger, - e non vorrei essere altro.
- Oliver, perché non ti metti a servizio di Fagin? – [disse Charley].
- E non fai la tua fortuna in un batter d'occhio? - aggiunse Dodger con una smorfia allegra.
- Per poterti poi ritirare nelle tue proprietà a fare il gentiluomo, come ho intenzione di fare io il prossimo anno
bisestile che verrà fra cinque anni, il giorno del poi e il mese del mai, - disse Charley Bates.
"I don't like it," rejoined Oliver, timidly; "I wish they would let me go. I -- I -- would rather go."
"And Fagin would rather not!" rejoined Charley.
Oliver knew this too well; but thinking it might be dangerous to express his feelings more openly, he only sighed,
and went on with his boot-cleaning.
- Non mi piace, - rispose Oliver timidamente; - desidererei che mi lasciassero andar via. Io... io... preferirei
- Ma Fagin non lo preferirebbe affatto! - ribatté Charley.
Oliver lo sapeva fin troppo bene; ma, pensando che poteva essere pericoloso esprimere più apertamente i suoi
desideri, si limitò a sospirare e continuò a lucidar le scarpe di Dodger.
"Go!" exclaimed the Dodger. "Why, where's your spirit? Don't you take any pride out of yourself? Would you go
and be dependent on your friends?"
"Oh, blow that!" said Master Bates: drawing two or three silk handkerchiefs from his pocket, and tossing them into
a cupboard, "that's too mean; that is." […]
- Andiamo! - esclamò Dodger. - Dove è andato a finire il tuo coraggio? Non hai orgoglio? Vorresti andartene e
dipendere dai tuoi amici?
- Per carità! - disse Charley Bates cavandosi di tasca due o tre fazzoletti di seta e gettandoli in un armadio. - Sarebbe
troppo vile, sarebbe.
"Look here!" said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and half-pence. "Here's a jolly life! What's the
odds where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where they were took from. You won't, won't you?
Oh, you precious flat!"
- Guarda qui, - disse Dodger tirando fuori una manciata di scellini e di mezzi pence; - ecco un bel vivere! Perché
dovremmo domandarci di dove vengono? Prendi quello che vuoi, tanto là dove sono stati presi, ce n'è ancora. Non
vuoi? Uh, quante smancerie!
"It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?" inquired Charley Bates. "He'll come to be scragged, won't he?"
"I don't know what that means," replied Oliver.
"Something in this way, old feller," said Charley. As he said it, Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief;
and; holding it erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a curious sound through his teeth . […]
- Son brutte cose, eh, Oliver - domandò Charley Bates. - E lui finirà con l'essere stirato, eh?
- Non so che cosa significa, rispose Oliver.
- Qualche cosa di simile, bello mio, - ribatté Charley. E così dicendo, messer Bates prese un lembo del suo fazzoletto
e, tenendolo dritto nell'aria, piegò la testa sulla spalla ed emise uno strano suono fra i denti.
"That's what it means," said Charley. "Look how he stares, Jack! I never did see such prime company as that 'ere
boy; he'll be the death of me, I know he will." Master Charles Bates, having laughed heartily again, resumed his pipe
with tears in his eyes.
"You've been brought up bad," said the Dodger.
- Ecco che cosa significa, - disse Charley. - Guarda come sobbalza, Jack. Non ho mai visto un tipo ingenuo come
questo ragazzo. Finirà con l'essere la mia morte, lo so. - E messer Charley Bates, dopo avere riso di nuovo
cordialmente, riprese la pipa con le lacrime agli occhi.
- Sei stato allevato male - disse Dodger.
1) What does the Dodger mean when he says that Oliver has been "brought up bad"?
Even if Oliver's incorruptibility seems improbable, he is being sarcastic. He imagines that
Oliver has been brought up to avoid crime. Ironically, Oliver has grown up amongst paupers
and criminals, but his nature is so pure that he seems an innocent middle-class child.
2) Which of the three boys speaks standard English? Why?
Oliver: it is a symbol of his inner purity. (But if a middle-class accent symbolizes purity, a
working-class accent symbolizes delinquency. This undermines one of the messages of the
book, which is that the state drives poor children to crime by providing them with no
alternative means of survival. If children with working-class accents are all natural
delinquents then there is no point in trying to save them from crime. In fact the novel is built
on a paradox: it is a protest against the social conditions that drive children to crime, but also
a demonstration that real innocence like Oliver's can never be corrupted, whatever conditions
it finds itself in.
3) Can you find some examples of non-standard grammar in the speech of the other two (e.g.
'brought up bad' for 'brought up badly'?
For example “he don't know”, “took” (for 'taken'), “that 'ere boy”.
4) What would you do in Oliver's situation? Do you find his innocence convincing? (open)
5) "Those members of the 'surplus population' who - goaded by their misery - summon up enough
courage to revolt openly against society become thieves and murderers. They wage open warfare
against the middle classes who have for so long waged secret warfare against them, " wrote Engels.
Do you agree with this 'sociological' explanation of crime? Would Dickens have agreed?
Dickens believed that criminals were inherently evil, not the product of social conditions. He
tended - at least in his early novels - to divide humanity into two species, the good and the bad.
The plot – the structure
Hard Times is divided into three sections, or books, and each book is divided into three separate
Book the First, Sowing, shows us the seeds planted by the Gradgrind/Bounderby education:
Louisa, Tom, and Stephen Blackpool.
The novel is set in an imaginary industrial town named Coketown, coke being a form of coal. The
story centres around the lives of some of the people who live there. Thomas Gradgrind, an educator
who believes in facts and statistics, has founded a school where his theories are taught, and he
brings up his two children, Louisa and Tom, in the same way, repressing their imagination and
feelings. Sissy Jupe attends his school but was brought up in the fanciful world of the circus and
cannot fit into his form of teaching. Mr Gradgrind charitably takes her in, after the disappearance of
her father, a circus entertainer. So the genial, lively, anarchic community of the circus which exalts
joy, imagination, genuine feelings and human relationships, crosses the respectable society in
Coketown based on facts, production and wealth.
Mr Gradgrind suggests to his daughter Louisa that she should marry Mr Bounderby a rich factory
owner and banker of the city thirty years older than her, who is continually trumpeting his role as a
self-made man. Louisa, ignorant of human relationship and her own affections, consents since she
wishes to help her brother Tom, who is given a job in Bounderby’s bank. In the meantime, Stephen
Blackpool, an honest worker in one of Bounderby’s factories, struggles with his love for Rachael,
another poor factory worker. He is unable to marry her because he is already married to a horrible,
drunken woman. Stephen visits Bounderby to ask about a divorce but learns that only the wealthy
can obtain them.
Book the Second, Reaping, reveals the harvesting of these seeds: Louisa's unhappy marriage,
Tom's selfishness and criminal ways, Stephen's rejection from Coketown.
Louisa’s marriage naturally proves to be so unhappy that she eventually flees to her father's house.
Here she miserably confides him that her upbringing has left her married to a man she does not
love, disconnected from her feelings and deeply unhappy.
Stephen refuses to take part in a strike at the factory because he feels that a union strike would only
increase tensions between employers and employees and is ostracised by his workmates. He is cast
out by the other workers and fired by Bounderby when he refuses to spy on them. He is forced to
leave the town and find casual work elsewhere. Louisa, impressed with Stephen’s integrity, visits
him before he leaves Coketown and helps him with some money. Tom accompanies her and tells
Stephen that if he waits outside the bank for several consecutive nights, help will come to him.
Stephen does so, but no help arrives. Eventually he packs up and leaves Coketown, hoping to find
agricultural work in the country. Not long after that, the bank is robbed, and the lone suspect is
Stephen, the vanished worker who was seen loitering outside the bank for several nights just before
disappearing from the city. Tom, who is lazy and selfish, has actually robbed his employer blaming
Book the Third, Garnering, gives the details.
When Stephen tries to return to clear his good name, he falls into a mining pit. Rachael and Louisa
discover him, but he dies soon after an emotional farewell to Rachael. Gradgrind and Louisa realize
that Tom is really responsible for robbing the bank, and they arrange to sneak him out of England
with the help of the circus performers with whom Sissy spent her early childhood, who show
kindness and sympathy by sheltering him. Gradgrind, helped by the examples of Sissy Jupe's
unselfishness and love for others, understands the damage caused by his narrow and materialistic
philosophy and devotes his political power to helping the poor. Tom realizes the error of his ways
but dies without ever seeing his family again. While Sissy marries and has a large and loving
family, Louisa never again marries and never has children. Nevertheless, Louisa is loved by Sissy’s
family and learns at last how to feel sympathy for her fellow human beings.
The novel contrasts the sense of solidarity that exists among the circus people with the selfish
individualism of Utilitarianism, the harshness of the industrial system, the power of money and
intellectual sterility whose clear result is the union between Bounderby and Louisa. Real friendship,
authentic feelings and the capacity to be moved and sympathize with other beings, come from
Sissy’s world. On the basis of these features, this is in fact the only world that can be defined as
truly human.
'NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted
in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning
animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which
I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to
Facts, sir!'
«Ora quello che voglio sono Fatti. A questi ragazzi e ragazze insegnate soltanto Fatti. Solo i Fatti
servono nella vita. Non piantate altro e sradicate tutto il resto. Solo con i Fatti si plasma la mente di
un animale dotato di ragione; nient'altro gli tornerà mai utile. Con questo principio educo i miei
figli, con questo principio educo questi ragazzi. Attenetevi ai Fatti, signore!».
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker's square
forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the
schoolmaster's sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which
had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves,
overshadowed by the wall.
La scena si svolgeva in un'aula spoglia, anonima, monotona, lugubre; per dare enfasi a queste
osservazioni l'oratore sottolineava ogni fase, tracciando con l'indice quadrato una linea sulla manica
del maestro. A dare ancora più enfasi alle parole dell'oratore c'erano il muro quadrato della sua
fronte con le sopracciglia per base e, sotto, gli occhi, comodamente annidati in due oscure e
ombrose caverne scavate nel muro stesso.
The emphasis was helped by the speaker's mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The
emphasis was helped by the speaker's voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The
emphasis was helped by the speaker's hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation
of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie,
as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside.
A dare ancora più enfasi c'era la voce dell'oratore, inflessibile, secca, autoritaria. A dare ancora più
enfasi c'erano i capelli dell'oratore, che crescevano ispidi a corona intorno alla testa, calva sulla
sommità, simili a una foresta di pini destinati a proteggere dal vento quella lucida superficie, tutta
bitorzoli, che pareva la crosta di una torta di prugne, come se nel cranio non ci fosse abbastanza
spazio per contenere tutti i solidi fatti che vi erano pigiati.
The speaker's obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders, - nay, his very
neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as
it was, - all helped the emphasis.
L'atteggiamento deciso dell'oratore, l'abito quadrato, le gambe quadrate, le spalle quadrate, perfino
la cravatta, annodata per serrarlo alla gola con una stretta implacabile - anche questa un fatto - tutto
serviva a dare ancora più vigore all'enfasi.
'In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!'
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept
with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have
imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
«Nella vita servono fatti, signore, soltanto Fatti!».
L'oratore, il maestro e la terza persona adulta presente indietreggiarono un poco e, facendo
girare tutto intorno lo sguardo, scrutarono i piccoli vasi disposti qua e là, in ordine, pronti a
ingollare galloni e galloni di fatti, che li avrebbero colmati fino all'orlo.
Focus on what you know about this novel and complete the following activities.
1. Briefly answer the following questions.
a. Who is speaking? Where does the scene take place? The protagonist of the novel, the teacher
Mr Grandgrind, is speaking in his classroom.
b. What does he look like? He has got square forefinger and forehead, square legs and.
shoulders; his eyes are in two dark caves; his hair which bristles on the skirts of his bald head.
His coat is square.
c. What sort of voice does he have? His voice is inflexible, dry and dictatorial.
d. Which overall impression does he create? He creates an impression of a threatening,
unattractive person.
e. What does he believe in? He believes in facts.
2. In not more than eight lines identify the themes of the novel that can be found in this short text.
A sharp critic to the materialism and narrow-mindedness of Utilitarianism can be grasped in
this text. "Hard Times" suggests that the 19thcentury England was turning human beings
into machines by avoiding the development of their emotions and imagination. This
suggestion comes forth largely through the actions of Gradgrind: he educates the children of
his family and his school in the ways of fact. He believes that human nature can be measured,
quantified, and governed entirely by rational rules. Indeed, his school attempts to turn
children into little machines that behave according to such rules.
 relationship person’s appearance and character: aspects of the speaker’s personality that are
highlighted: rigidity, narrow mindedness, his being extremely concrete; the overall impression
we receive is that of a threatening, unattractive person
 semantic areas: geometry, monotony and regularity. Education is materialistically oriented, rigid,
barren in quality, it does not leave space to creativity, it is repressive. His application of
utilitarian philosophy is reinforced by the repetition of the word FACT
 the use of similes helps create a caricature of the speaker
 depersonalization and dehumanization is reached also through the absence of the identification of
the participants who are referred to as the speaker, the schoolmaster. This impression is
reinforced also by the metaphor of the “little vessels”: students are depersonalized, passive
recipients of knowledge.
CAPITOLO II – LA STRAGE DEGLI INNOCENTI - Un Uomo Concreto (p. 490-491)
THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who
proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked
into allowing for anything over.
Thomas Gradgrind, sir – peremptorily Thomas - Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of
scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel
of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to.
Thomas Gradgrind, signore. Uomo concreto. Un uomo di fatti e calcoli. Un uomo che parte
dal principio che due più due fa quattro e basta; un uomo che non si lascia convincere a concedere
niente di più.
Thomas Gradgrind, signore - decisamente Thomas - Thomas Gradgrind. Regolo, bilancino, tavola
pitagorica sempre in tasca, signore, sempre pronto a pesare e a misurare ogni particella di natura
umana e a dire esattamente a quanto ammonta il tutto.
It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other
nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or
Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind
- no, sir!
Mera questione di cifre, semplice operazione aritmetica. Potreste sperare di far credere qualche
sciocchezza a George Gradgrind, ad Augustus Gradgrind, a John Gradgrind, a Joseph Gradgrind
(tutti personaggi ipotetici, non reali), ma non Thomas Gradgrind, no, signore!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of
acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and
girls,' for 'sir,' Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers (brocche)
before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Era così che mentalmente il signor Gradgrind presentava se stesso alla sua cerchia privata di
conoscenze e al pubblico in generale. Era così, sostituendo è ovvio alla parola signore le parole
ragazzi e ragazze che Thomas Gradgrind ora presentava Thomas Gradgrind ai piccoli recipienti che
aveva dinnanzi e che bisognava stipare di fatti.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of
cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of
childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim
mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
Nel fissarli con sguardo fiammeggiante dal fondo delle caverne già descritte, sembrava una
specie di cannone che, carico di fatti fino all'imboccatura, si preparasse a scagliarli d'un sol colpo al
di là delle regioni dell'infanzia. Faceva anche venire in mente un apparecchio galvanico, pronto a
sostituire con un cupo meccanismo le tenere fantasie giovanili che andavano spazzate via.
'Girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, 'I don't know
that girl. Who is that girl?'
'Sissy Jupe, sir,' explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.
'Sissy is not a name,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Don't call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.'
'It's father as calls me Sissy, sir,' returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another
«Ragazza numero venti», disse Gradgrind puntando quadratamente l'indice quadrato, «non conosco
quella ragazza. Chi è?».
«Sissy Jupe, signore», spiegò il numero venti arrossendo, alzandosi e facendo un inchino.
«Sissy non è un nome», osservò Gradgrind. «Non farti chiamare Sissy. Fatti chiamare Cecilia».
«È mio padre che mi chiama Sissy, signore», rispose la ragazzina con un tremito nella voce,
facendo un altro inchino.
'Then he has no business to do it,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Tell him he mustn't. Cecilia Jupe. Let me
see. What is your father?'
'He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.'
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.
'We don't want to know anything about that, here. You mustn't tell us about that, here. Your father
breaks horses, don't he?'
«Non ha alcun motivo per farlo. Diglielo che non deve. Cecilia Jupe. Vediamo: cosa fa tuo padre?».
«Lavora con i cavalli in un circo, signore, se lo consentite».
Gradgrind aggrottò la fronte e, con la mano fece un gesto come per scartare quella discutibile
«Non ne vogliamo sapere di cose del genere qui; non devi dirci queste cose. Tuo padre doma i
cavalli, vero?».
'If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.'
'You mustn't tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker.
He doctors sick horses, I dare say?'
'Oh yes, sir.'
'Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of
a horse.'
«Sì, signore, se lo consentite: quando ce n'è qualcuno da domare, lo domano nell'arena del circo».
«Non nominare l'arena del circo qui. Bene, allora devi dire che tuo padre fa il domatore di cavalli.
Cura anche i cavalli ammalati, vero?».
«Oh sì, signore».
«Benissimo! Allora è veterinario, maniscalco e domatore di cavalli. Dammi la definizione di
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
'Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!' said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the
little pitchers. 'Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of
animals! Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.'
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced
to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely
white-washed room, irradiated Sissy.
(A quella imperiosa richiesta, Sissy Jupe si sentì terribilmente allarmata.)
«Ragazza numero venti incapace di definire il cavallo!» sentenziò Gradgrind a edificazione
generale dei piccoli recipienti.
Ragazza numero venti non possiede fatti su uno degli animali più comuni! La definizione di cavallo
di qualche ragazzo ora. La tua, Bitzer».
Il dito quadrato si mosse qua e là per puntarsi improvvisamente su Bitzer, forse perché costui
sedeva, per caso, sulla traiettoria dello stesso raggio di sole che, filtrando attraverso una delle nude
finestre della stanza dalle pareti bianchissime, illuminava Sissy.
For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the
centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for
the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few
rows in advance, caught the end.
Ragazzi e ragazze erano disposti in due gruppi compatti, divisi al centro da uno stretto passaggio;
Sissy, seduta all'angolo di una fila al sole, stava all'inizio del raggio di cui Bitzer, il quale si trovava
all'angolo della fila sull'altro lato, qualche banco più avanti, riceveva la fine.
But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and
more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and lighthaired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed.
His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them
into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form.
Ma, mentre i capelli e gli occhi della ragazza erano così neri che al sole si accendevano di colore
ancora più vivo e lucente, Bitzer aveva occhi e capelli così chiari che, illuminati da quello stesso
raggio, parevano sbiadirsi del tutto.
I freddi occhi non sarebbero sembrati neppure occhi, se non fosse stato per le ciglia cortissime che,
per costrasto con qualcosa che era ancor più scialbo, ne mettevano in evidenza la forma.
His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead
and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if
he were cut, he would bleed white.
'Bitzer,' said Thomas Gradgrind. 'Your definition of a horse.'
I capelli tagliati corti avrebbero potuto benissimo essere la semplice continuazione delle lentiggini
che gli punteggiavano la fronte e il resto del volto; la pelle, esangue e diafana in modo innaturale
dava l'impressione che, se si fosse tagliato, ne sarebbe sprizzato sangue bianco.
«Bitzer», disse Thomas Gradgrind, «dai tu la definizione di cavallo».
'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve
incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring
to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.'
Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
«Quadrupede. Erbivoro. Quaranta denti, cioè ventiquattro molari, quattro canini e dodici incisivi.
La muta avviene in primavera; nei paesi umidi cambia anche le unghie. Zoccoli duri che però
richiedono la ferratura. Età riconoscibile da segni nella bocca».
Così (e molto di più) Bitzer.
'Now girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'You know what a horse is.'
She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had
blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once,
and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennae of
busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.
«Ora, ragazza numero venti, sa che cos'è un cavallo», disse Gradgrind.
Sissy Jupe fece un altro inchino e, se avesse potuto diventare più rossa, sarebbe arrossita ancora di
più. Bitzer, dopo un rapido battito di palpebre rivolto a Thomas Gradgrind, con la luce che,
posandosi sulle ciglia tremule, le faceva assomigliare alle antenne di un insetto laborioso, tornò a
sedersi premendo le mani sulla fronte coperta di lentiggini.
2. Answer the following questions.
1. Where does the scene take place? In a room (line 50) that we know is a classroom.
2. What is it like? It is a whitewashed room (line 50) and the boys and girls are sitting in two
compact bodies divided up in the centre by a narrow interval (lines 51-52).
3. What is Thomas Grandgrind doing? He is speaking to his schoolchildren, teaching the
importance of facts (lines 14-15).
4. Who does he pick on? He picks on a new pupil, calling her 'girl number twenty' (line 21).
5. What does Grandgrind object about her? He objects first to her name, which must really be
Cecilia (lines 25-26), and then to her father's occupation as a horse-breakers in a circus (lines
29-41 ).
6. What is the girl asked by Mr Grandgrind? The girl is asked to define a horse (line 42).
7. Who is Bitzer? He is a student.
8. What is he remarkable for? He is remarkable for his unwholesome pallor as well as his
acceptance of Mr Grandgrind's system (lines 56-63).
9. What does he provide? A perfect definition of a 'horse' composed of pompous, lifeless terms
(lines 65-68).
3. Focus on Mr Grandgrind.
1. Fill in the table below with words or phrases
describing his physical appearance, interests and "instruments of work".
His eyes are set in cellarage (l. 16)
A kind of cannon (l.17)
A galvanizing apparatus (l. 19)
Square forefinger (ll. 21 – 48)
Realities, facts, calculations (l. 1)
To weigh and measure any parcel
of human nature (ll. 5 – 6)
Clean out the regions of
childhood at one discharge (l. 18)
Ready to replace the tender
imagination with facts (ll. 18 –
Rule and a pair of scales (l. 4)
Multiplication Table (l. 5)
2. Which overall impression do these details create? All these details make an overall impression
of a threatening, unattractive person ready to destroy the children's imagination in favour of
3. What does he represent? Gradgrind represents the wisdom of the head. His philosophy is
based on utilitarianism, which seeks to promote "the greatest happiness for the greatest
number", and states that nothing else is important but profit, and that profit is achieved by
the pursuit of cold, hard facts. Everything that isn't factual' is considered "fancy".
4. His name is composed of two words:
Gradgrind = Grade: a particular standard or level of quality of a product + Grind: to crush
into powder. The onomatopoeic sound and the inferred meaning of this name suggest a lot
about this educator's personality. Which definition would you choose to describe him? He
crushes the children with his rules.
4. Focus on the students and answer the following questions.
1. How does Mr Gradgrind refer to them? He refers to them emphatically with their number.
They are nothing but things, or better "little pitchers" who are to be filled with facts (lines 1415, 45).
2. What does he call them? He calls them by number (line 21) or by their bare surname (line
3. How would you describe most of his students' personalities? They are depersonalised and
4. How does the girl differ from the other students? How is this difference underlined? She
represents the world of imagination and differs from the other schoolchildren completely
devoted to facts and devoid of any feelings. This difference is underlined by, her physical
description which is in antithesis to Bitzer's. Bitzer is ironically unwholesome, for he is
completely attached to facts and to his teacher's system. Unlike the other children, who are
scared, she answers back about her father.
5. What is the theme of the extract? The mechanisation of human beings embodied by Mr
Grandgrind's rational philosophy.
6. Class discussion
Hard Times is in many ways a novel about the social condition of poverty, but very few of its major
characters are actually poor. With that in mind, do you think the book does an effective job of
shaping our view of poverty? Why or why not? Suggestions: Dickens might have chosen to focus
his novel on the wealthy middle class rather than on the lower classes he tried to defend
because he realised that most of his Victorian readers belonged to the middle class. By
centring his book on characters with whom his readers could identify, he was able to awaken
their feelings for the poor of Coketown and of England in general. In that sense, the book does
its job. Of course, the contrary argument could also be made: the novel simply reinforces
comfortable middle-class stereotypes about the noble poor, and it offers no real solution or
possibility for change.
COKETOWN, to which Messrs Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was a triumph of fact; it
had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs Gradgrind herself.
Coketown verso la quale dirigevano i loro passi Bounderby e Gradgrind era un trionfo di fatti. Non
c’era la benché minima traccia di fantasia lì, non più di quanta ce ne fosse nella signora Gradgrind
Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before pursuing our tune.
Prima di eseguire l'intera melodia, facciamo risuonare la nota dominante: Coketown.
It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed
Era una città di mattoni rossi o, meglio, di mattoni che sarebbero stati rossi, se fumo e cenere lo
avessero consentito.
but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.
Così come stavano le cose, era una città di un rosso e di un nero innaturale come la faccia dipinta di
un selvaggio;
It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed
themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled.
una città piena di macchinari e di alte ciminiere dalle quali uscivano, snodandosi ininterrottamente,
senza mai svoltolarsi del tutto, interminabili serpenti di fumo.
It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building
full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the
steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of
melancholy madness.
C'era un canale nero e c'era un fiume violaceo per le tinture maleodoranti che vi si riversavano;
c'erano vasti agglomerati di edifici pieni di finestre che tintinnavano e tremavano tutto il giorno; a
Coketown gli stantuffi delle macchine a vapore si alzavano e si abbassavano con moto regolare e
incessante come la testa di un elefante in preda a una follia malinconica.
It 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 to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.
C'erano tante strade larghe, tutte uguali fra loro, e tante strade strette ancora più uguali fra loro; ci
abitavano persone altrettanto uguali fra loro, che entravano e uscivano tutte alla stessa ora, facendo
lo stesso scalpiccio sul selciato, per svolgere lo stesso lavoro; persone per le quali l'oggi era uguale
all'ieri e al domani, e ogni anno era la replica di quello passato e di quello a venire.
These attributes of Coketown were in the main inseparable from the work by which it was
sustained; against them were to be set off, comforts of life which found their way all over the world,
and elegancies of life which made, we will not ask how much of the fine lady, who could scarcely
bear to hear the place mentioned.
Questi attributi di Coketown erano in gran parte inseparabili dall'industria che dava da vivere alla
città; su questo sfondo, in contrasto, c'erano gli agi del vivere che si diffondevano in tutto il mondo;
c'erano la raffinatezza e la grazia del vivere che contribuivano - non indaghiamo in quale misura - a
creare quella gentildonna elegante che storceva il nasino al solo sentir nominare il luogo or ora
The rest of its features were voluntary, and they were these. You saw nothing in Coketown but what
was severely workful.
Non c'era nulla a Coketown che non stesse a indicare una industriosità indefessa.
If the members of a religious persuasion built a chapel there - as the members of eighteen religious
persuasions had done - they made it a pious warehouse of red brick, with sometimes (but this is
only in highly ornamental examples) a bell in a birdcage on the top of it.
Se i seguaci di una setta religiosa decidevano di erigere una chiesa - cosa che avevano fatto i
seguaci di diciotto sette - ne saltava fuori un pio magazzino di mattoni rossi, sormontato, a volte
(ma soltanto negli esemplari più raffinati), da una campana racchiusa in una specie di gabbia per
The solitary exception was the New Church; a stuccoed edifice with a square steeple over the door,
terminating in four short pinnacles like florid wooden legs.
Unica eccezione era la Chiesa Nuova: un edificio intonacato che, sopra alla porta principale, aveva
un campanile quadrato con in cima quattro pinnacoli simili a robuste gambe di legno.
All the public inscriptions in the town were painted alike, in severe characters of black and white.
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.
In città tutte le insegne degli edifici pubblici erano negli stessi identici austeri caratteri bianchi e
neri. La prigione avrebbe potuto essere l'ospedale, l'ospedale avrebbe potuto essere la prigione, il
municipio avrebbe potuto essere o l'uno o l'altro oppure tutti e due, o anche qualsiasi altra cosa,
perché nulla, nelle linee aggraziate di quegli edifici, serviva a identificarli.
Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of the town; fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the
Fatti, fatti, fatti dappertutto nell'aspetto materiale della città; fatti, fatti, fatti dappertutto in quello
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 purchaseable in the cheapest
market and saleable in the dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen.
Era un fatto la scuola di M'Choakumchild, era un fatto la scuola di disegno, erano fatti i rapporti fra
padrone e operaio; solo fatti si estendevano fra l'ospedale in cui si veniva alla luce e il cimitero, e
quello che non si poteva esprimere in cifre, che non si poteva comperare al prezzo più basso e
vendere a quello più alto, non esisteva, non sarebbe esistito mai, nei secoli dei secoli, Amen.
A town so sacred to fact, and so triumphant in its assertion, of course got on well? Why no, not quite well. No? Dear
In una città così dedita al fatto, così trionfalmente sicura della sua supremazia, naturalmente tutto andava a gonfie vele,
vero? Be', non proprio. No? Povero me!
No. Coketown did not come out of its own furnaces, in all respects like gold that had stood the fire. First, the perplexing
mystery of the place was, Who belonged to the eighteen denominations?
No. Dai suoi altiforni la città non usciva splendente e radiosa come un pezzo d'oro purificato dal fuoco. C'era
innanzitutto un mistero imbarazzante: chi erano i seguaci delle diciotto sette religiose?
Because, whoever did, the labouring people did not. It was very strange to walk through the streets on a Sunday
morning, and note how few of them the barbarous jangling of bells that was driving the sick and nervous mad, called
away from their own quarter, from their own close rooms, from the corners of their own streets, where they lounged
listlessly, gazing at all the church and chapel going, as at a thing with which they had no manner of concern.
Di chiunque si trattasse non erano certamente gli operai. Strana sensazione quella che si provava alla domenica mattina,
quando, passeggiando per le strade, ci si rendeva conto quanto fossero pochi coloro che, rispondendo al barbaro
richiamo della campana che faceva impazzire la gente con i nervi a pezzi o ammalata, lasciavano i loro alloggi, le loro
anguste stanze, gli angoli delle strade dove indugiavano con aria svogliata, guardando quelli che si recavano in chiesa o
alla cappella, come se la cosa non li riguardasse affatto.
Nor was it merely the stranger who noticed this, because 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.
Non erano soltanto i forestieri a notare tanta indifferenza; a Coketown stessa era sorta un'associazione i cui membri, a
ogni sessione della camera dei Comuni, inoltravano indignate petizioni, sollecitando l'emanazione di una legge che
imponesse con la forza a quella gente di diventare religiosa.
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.
Veniva poi la Lega della Temperanza, la quale protestava perché quella stessa gente si ubriacava, - che si ubriacasse era
certo, tanto di statistiche lo provavano - e dimostrava (durante l'ora del tè) che nessun argomento umano o divino
(tranne una medaglia) l' avrebbe persuasa a non farlo.
Then came the chemist and druggist, with other tabular statements, showing that when they didn’t get drunk, they took
Veniva poi il chimico e farmacista il quale, statistiche alla mano, dimostrava che, quando quella gente non si ubriacava,
si metteva a fumare oppio.
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;
Seguiva il cappellano della prigione, uomo di vasta esperienza, che con una mole di statistiche superiore a tutte le
precedenti, dimostrava che quella stessa gente frequentava luoghi ignobili, nascosti ai più, dove ascoltava ignobili
canzoni e guardava ignobili danze e, chissà?, magari anche ci partecipava.
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.
Proprio in uno di questi posti un certo A.B., età ventiquattro anni, condannato a diciotto mesi di cella di isolamento - era
stato traviato. Così almeno sosteneva lui (non che si fosse mai dimostrato degno di fede), dicendo di essere convinto
che, in caso contrario, sarebbe diventato un cittadino modello dalla morale ineccepibile.
Then came Mr Gradgrind and Mr Bounderby, the two gentlemen at this present moment walking through Coketown,
and both eminently practical, who could, on occasion, furnish more tabular statements derived from their own personal
experience, and illustrated by cases they had known and seen,
Venivano poi i signori Gradgrind e Bounderby, i due gentiluomini che in quel momento attraversavano Coketown,
entrambi eminentemente pratici, che, se necessario, avrebbero potuto fornire altre statistiche, frutto della loro personale
esperienza e confermate da casi che loro stessi avevano visto e conosciuto;
from which it clearly appeared — in short, it was the only clear thing in the case — that these same people were a bad
lot altogether, gentlemen; that do what you would for them they were never thankful for it, gentlemen; that they were
restless, gentlemen; that they never knew what they wanted; that they lived upon the best, and bought fresh butter; and
insisted on Mocha coffee, and rejected all but prime parts of meat, and yet were eternally dissatisfied and
da tutto questo risultava chiaro - anzi era l'unica cosa chiara - che questa era tutta gentaglia, signori, che non sarebbe
mai stata riconoscente per quello che si faceva per il loro bene; che era sempre in subbuglio, che non sapeva quello che
voleva, che viveva di quanto c'era di meglio e comperava burro fresco; che insisteva nel volere vero caffé e non voleva
sentirne parlare di carne che non fosse di prima scelta e che, nonostante tutto questo, era sempre scontenta e intrattabile.
Test yourself
1. Read up to line 22 and say what kind of town Coketown was and what it contained.
It was a town of red brick made black by smoke and ashes, full of machinery and tall chimneys. It
contained several large streets that were all very much like one another, many small streets, a
black canal, a purple river, vast piles of buildings.
2. The fourth paragraph contains a list of the public buildings in Coketown. Underline them and say if
there were any differences among them.
Eighteen chapels (lines 24-25), the New church (line 27), the jail (line 30), the infirmary (line 31),
the town-hall (line 31), M'Choakumchild school (line 34), the school of design (line 35), the
hospital (line 36), the cemetery (line 37). Almost all of them looked the same.
3. The last two paragraphs deal with the effect of such a town on its inhabitants. Answer the following
1. What did a native organization of Coketown want to do?
It wanted to make the inhabitants of Coketown religious by force (lines 51-54).
2. What did the Teetotal Society show in tabular statements?
It showed that people were used to getting drunk (lines 54-57).
3. How did the chemist and druggist show that the inhabitants of Coketown took opium?
Through tabular statements (line 58).
4. What was the aim of the jail chaplain?
To show that these people were used to going to places of low entertainment (lines 61 - 64).
5. What did Mr Gradgrind and Mr Bounderby want to prove?
That the inhabitants of Coketown were a bad lot altogether (lines 75-76).
4. Define the type of narrator. Third-person omniscient narrator.
5. In your opinion what is the key-word of this passage? The value of factual, practical knowledge.
6. Find the images used by Dickens to describe Coketown in the second paragraph. Group them
according to:
Similes Line 6; Lines 11-12.
Metaphors Line 7
What do they have in common?
They are drawn from the animal world and share the connotation of wilderness.
Is the process of industrialization approved of or criticised? It is criticised.
7. The description gradually takes on an interior quality, since it moves its focus from street to people
(lines 13-17). The mechanical repetition of words and phrases and of the syntax combine to express the
main psychological features of the inhabitants of Coketown.
1. Find and underline them in the text.
Repeated words: Like, same, anything, fact.
Repeated phrases: Like one another.
Repeated syntax: It was a town; Might have been; Then came.
2. What aspects of the inhabitants of Coketown do these linguistic devices underline? Tick and explain
your choice/s
Monotony Amusement Alienation Creativity
8. Sum up the features of the Victorian novel contained in the passage. All the main features are
present. Students cannot evaluate the plot of the novel.
9. Discussion
The experience of living in a large city can still be a source of uneasiness and unhappiness today,
and it creates problems of communication, as it did in Dickens's time. Discuss in pairs then share
your findings with the rest of the class. Speaking activity.
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