“Idiots Again” is followed by the poem, “Gradation.” The poem, like an aspect of the preceding article, is about the problem of looking at things in terms of black and white in a world where everything is gradual and blends into each other. The poet writes, “Tell me not of insulations, of affinities distinct, / For all things with one another are indissolubly link’d” (“Gradation” 200). This poem stands in the face of the philosophies of Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby, who define their world through fact and concreteness and wish to create a system of education that turns out factual, unimaginative pupils.  The poet points out that not everything (almost nothing) is definite – there is not one moment when the sun is risen or set, no one instance when a plant is grown or a season arrives, and no set time when one gains intelligence, reaches adulthood or falls in love. All of these events are gradual. The inability of Gradgrind and Bounderby to see the world in gradual terms is highlighted in Chapter 6 of Hard Times. After Sissy Jupe is informed her father has abandoned her, Bounderby fails to see that she is mourning her loss. For Bounderby, the loss of a parent is not to be mourned – nothing is to be mourned, just forgotten and swept aside. He tells Sissy, “Your father has absconded – deserted you – and you mustn’t expect to see him again as long as you live” (Hard Times 42). The good men and women of Sleary’s company do see the world in gradations, and are shocked at this outburst from Bounderby:

They cared so little for plain Fact, these people, and were in that advanced state of degeneracy on the subject, that instead of being impressed by the speaker’s strong common sense, they took it in extraordinary dudgeon. The men muttered ‘Shame!’ and the women ‘Brute!’ (Hard Times 42)

The poem, read in conjunction with this chapter, makes it known to the reader that Dickens finds Bounderby’s statement ridiculous and backhandedly sympathizes with Sleary’s people. The poem states, “If thou canst read this closely, how much less the outward sphere” (“Gradation” 201). Bounderby, Gradgrind and those like them are the ones to whom Dickens is speaking and criticizing for relying too much on fact and not enough on feeling and shades of grey.
 - Lyndsey Magrone (2005)

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