My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else, proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme of this classic novel Published in , the story concerns one Thomas Gradgrind, a fanatic of the demonstrable fact, who raises his children, Tom and Louisa, in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicalityWithout a moral compass to guide them, the children sink into lives of desperation and despair, played out against the grim background of Coketown, a wretched community shadowed by an industrial behemoth Louisa falls into a loveless marriage with Josiah Bouderby, a vulgar banker, while the unscrupulous Tom, totally lacking in principle, becomes a thief who frames an innocent man for his crime Witnessing the degradation and downfall of his children, Gradgrind realizes that his own misguided principles have ruined their livesConsidered Dickens harshest indictment of mid th century industrial practices and their dehumanizing effects, this novel offers a fascinating tapestry of Victorian life, filled with the richness of detail, brilliant characterization, and passionate social concern that typify the novelist s finest creationsOf Dickens work, the eminent Victorian critic John Ruskin had this to say He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written and all of them, but especially Hard Times, should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions


10 thoughts on “Hard Times

  1. Rhiannon D& Rhiannon D& says:

    This book is, for me, Dickens best I loved every second of it, the darkness of Tom s steady descent into drinking and gambling were brilliant and there were several times I found myself simply rereading a few paragraphs over and over, in awe at them The end of Chapter XIX, The Whelp, is something I hold in very high regard as possibly one of his best pieces of writing ever I want to deal with the characters individually from here, since I feel they are all very important.Mr Gradgrind Fac This book is, for me, Dickens best I loved every second of it, the darkness of Tom s steady descent into drinking and gambling were brilliant and there were several times I found myself simply rereading a few paragraphs over and over, in awe at them The end of Chapter XIX, The Whelp, is something I hold in very high regard as possibly one of his best pieces of writing ever I want to deal with the characters individually from here, since I feel they are all very important.Mr Gradgrind Facts This man s obsession with facts and hate for fantasy is possibly one of the most genius parts of the plot, highlighting exactly what Dickens means to say His regret at the end serves to show the inevitable outcome of living his sort of life, and is done in a very clever way His name is also wonderful I like to say it Gradgrind It s great, isn t it Bounderby Dickens made me hate him, and he was made to be hated For all his bluster and superiority he is in fact worse in moral integrity than Stephen or Tom, which is why I was intensely glad as Louisa took her steps away from him He really is a bounder.Louisa Loo A perfect tragic heroine, but I couldn t help thinkingthan once that she should really get some backbone But I suppose that was the point, so she was well done too.Cecilia Sissy I didn t like her very much, but I did like the way she was used, as the embodiment of fancy and fun She served to drive the point home and was useful in terms of story development.Tom The Whelp Goodness, I hated him sometimes As I ve already said, his descent was done well and some of the description around him was fantastic Dickens habit of referring to him as the whelp was perfect.Stephen Blackpool The character I could emphathise with most, he was likeable and pitiable I loved his struggle with Slackbridge and the Trade Union, and his contrasting relationships with Rachel and his wife made me feel very sorry for both of them His ending was also very sad, and shows just how cruel people can be to each other.Mrs Sparsit One of the most brilliant in the book The image of her staircase, with Louisa walking to the bottom, is one that has stuck with me as being particularly genius I also laughed at her disappointment by the train towards the end, as she was so anxious to see the downfall of others she ended up being nothingthan a jobless window.James Harthouse Although for most of the book I wished Louisa would run away with him, the end convinced me otherwise Still, he was a very interesting character who provided a catalyst for all the suppressed emotions of the Gradgrinds Bounderbys.All in all, a brilliant book


  2. Amit Mishra Amit Mishra says:

    The novel depends on the opposition between fact, Dickens s name for the cold and loveless attitude to the life he associated with Utilitarianism, and fancy, which represents all the warmth of the imagination A contrast which gives it both tension and unity.


  3. Henry Avila Henry Avila says:

    Mr Thomas Gradgrind , a very wealthy, former merchant, now retired, only believes in facts, and mathematics, two plus two, is four facts are important, facts will lift you into prosperity, facts are what to live by, they are the only thing that matters, everything else is worthless knowing He sets up a model school, were the terrorized students, will learn this, and other subjects that are unfortunately, also taught the eminently practical man, teaches his five children at birth Mr Thomas Gradgrind , a very wealthy, former merchant, now retired, only believes in facts, and mathematics, two plus two, is four facts are important, facts will lift you into prosperity, facts are what to live by, they are the only thing that matters, everything else is worthless knowing He sets up a model school, were the terrorized students, will learn this, and other subjects that are unfortunately, also taught the eminently practical man, teaches his five children at birth facts They fear him, a dictator, at home, his weak minded, sick wife, just looks on, wrapping herself up, to keep warm and complaining of her weariness But fictitious Coketown , Manchester is a dirty, factory town, incessant noises from countless machines, powered by coal, chimneys forever spewing dark gases, polluting the air, thick smoke like a twisting snake high above the atmosphere, moving this way and that, spreading all through the surrounding areas, the filth, the sickness, and early death, to the inhabitants, but the hands are not relevant, money is, making lots of it, that, and only that A foul smelling canal, and even , a purple river, flows by , the buildings becoming an ugly gray, quickly, the people have to escape to the countryside, to breath fresh healthy air Travelers going by this place, can only imagine there is a city there, under the black cloud covering, yet they can t see it Mr Gradgrind best friend, if there is such an animal, in his circle, is the banker, and manufacturer, Mr Josiah Bounderby, always telling anyone, within hearing distance, that he himself, rose from the gutter, to become a rich man, no help he did it alone Story after story, of his sleeping in the streets, hungry, soiled, without a farthing to his name Abandoned by the evil, uncaring, widowed mother, brought up by his horrible, drunken grandmother, who beats the child repeatedly Entertaining, heart wrenching, you felt for this man, how he suffered greatly in youth, except it s not quite true in fact, lies Louisa, Mr Gradgrind s oldest and favorite child, is very pretty, the bachelor Bounderby, has eyes for her, when she reaches the proper age of about 20, the fifty year old man, asks for her hand in marriage, of course, conveying this fact first, to her father Louisa says what does it matter, a prisoner in her own home, the girl hasn t seen anything of the world, disaster follows, the couple have nothing in common, what can they talk about Mrs Sparsit, her husband s meddling housekeeper, from a good family, hates her Louisa, flirts with the restless, gentleman, Mr James Harthouse, who proudly states that he is no good Still Louisa, only loves her brother, The Whelp , young Thomas, getting money from his sister, gambling, drinking, wasting it all and always coming back forThe selfish boy, works in the bank for Mr Bounderby, his now, brother in law, when the well runs dry, the drunkard finds some 150 pounds sterling, inside the bank, not properly being used and sees, that it will be Implicating an innocent hand , Stephen Blackpool, fired recently by Bounderby, for speaking too much, shunned by the trade union members, for not joining, he walks the streets a lonely man, with an alcoholic wife who deserted him, she still periodically comes back , to sober up, and a sweetheart, that he can t marry too Mr.Blackpool, seeks work elsewhere, not knowing he s a suspect, in the puzzling crime The industrial revolution makes some people rich and others sick, but there is no going back , the dye has been cast


  4. Lyn Lyn says:

    Hard Times is Dickens s novel set in the fictional Coketown and centering around utilitarian and industrial influences on Victorian society Dickens s brilliant use of characterization can be seen in high form here and as always, his naming of his story s populace is entertaining by itself The best is without a doubt Mr McChokumchild, a teacher Louisa Gradgrind is a thinly disguised fictionalization of John Stuart Mill One of the great things about reading literature from the 1800s or earlie Hard Times is Dickens s novel set in the fictional Coketown and centering around utilitarian and industrial influences on Victorian society Dickens s brilliant use of characterization can be seen in high form here and as always, his naming of his story s populace is entertaining by itself The best is without a doubt Mr McChokumchild, a teacher Louisa Gradgrind is a thinly disguised fictionalization of John Stuart Mill One of the great things about reading literature from the 1800s or earlier is that a reader can ascertain how contemporary works have been influenced by the older work Wildly inspirational and influential Elements of Hard Times and Dickens work in general can be seen in Roger Waters works, Monty Python and even The Big Lebowski 2018 Dickens character names are the best Gradgrind Bounderby, Jupe, Sparsit Harthouse, Blackpool, Slackbridge But of course Mr McChoakumchild is the best, maybe the best in his canon McChoakumchild s name is an ax upon which his satire grinds, illustrating his social commentary


  5. Bionic Jean Bionic Jean says:

    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 So begins Hard Times, and what an opening this is We know instantly from this, some of what the novel will be about, and the character of the man who says these words He is plain speaking in hisinflexible, dry, and dictatorialvNow, 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 So begins Hard Times, and what an opening this is We know instantly from this, some of what the novel will be about, and the character of the man who says these words He is plain speaking in hisinflexible, dry, and dictatorialvoice, direct and committed to his extreme view of teaching as instruction His name is Mr Thomas Gradgrind,an eminently practical man , and he has an ailing wife, and five children called Louisa, Tom, Jane and revealingly Adam Smith and Malthus He has a misguided idea of Utilitarianism as a ideal in all things, only valuing facts and statistics, and ruthlessly suppressing the imaginative sides of his children s nature.Mr Gradgrind also has a close friend, a banker and mill owner, Josiah Bounderby, who boasts that he is a self made man, proud that he raised himself in the streets after being abandoned as a child and in the meantime never letting anyone forget it Whereas both men express the same hardnosed views, Josiah Bounderby is a very different sort of man, a blustering, arrogant and hypocritical man,A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty A man who was the Bully of humility We have never had any difficulty with you, and you have never been one of the unreasonable ones You don t expect to be set up in a coach and six, and to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, as a good many of em do Mr Bounderby always represented this to be the sole, immediate, and direct object of any Hand who was not entirely satisfiedHard Times is an unusual novel for Dickens, in that it is set in a Lancashire mill town in the North of England, and deals with the working conditions of the hands or workers there This is not Dickens s familiar geographical area, nor is this novel his best accomplishment by a long way Yet the novel is now a bestseller, and often the first one people read, or study at school, because it is his shortest novel.What prompted Dickens s sudden interest, was a twenty three week long mill workers strike in Preston, which Dickens had gone to see in January 1854, prior to writing about it in his periodicalHousehold WordsHe based his invented grimy, soot besmirchedCoketownon Preston There are fewer descriptive passages than usual in this short novel, but the depressed gloom of Coketown is very effectively conveyed,It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage 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 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 In principle Dickens was very interested in this area of workers conditions and the resultant protests He had touched on working class unrest inBarnaby Rudge , and had intended to write about factories inNicholas Nickleby , although both of these are far longer andpowerful novels The article he wrote inHousehold Wordsafter his visit, says,into the relations between employers and employed there must enter something of feeling and sentiment mutual explanation, forbearance and consideration otherwise those relations are wrong and rotten to the core and will otherwise never bear sound fruitDickens firmly believed that every individual should have dignity and be accorded respect Unfortunately though, the part of thePreston Workers Billthat he went on to quote, presents itself as a standard Marxist theory of labour value, mentioning thegold which is now being used to crush those who created itThis simply went too far, and alienated his readers The novel was not then very popular indeed all such criticisms of the upcoming Industrial Revolution were frowned on Looking backwards was not the way The popular belief was that rich rewards were in store, rapid progress was assured, and that mechanisation would provide a panacea for all Only in retrospect can we put Hard Times in context, and see what the author was trying to achieve in this specific short period of history, and also appreciate the many other aspects of the story, which were somewhat overshadowed by this unpopular message.For Dickens was keen to illustrate his beliefs with this, his tenth novel, published in weekly parts between April and August 1854 He also, perhaps unwisely, widened his remit to include another issue of social reform close to his heart, that of Education His earlier novels had become increasingly complex, dealing with multiple issues and with many intertwining plots, subplots and mysteries, culminating in the masterlyBleak HouseHowever, with Hard Times, he seems to have misjudged the scope slightly To write a searing indictment of Utilitarianism as currently practised, to damn both employment conditions and industrial action, plus condemning a theoretical Utiliarianism put into practice in schools, and to then put the whole into an entertaining framework with a dash of comedy and romance, was simply overambitious Sales ofHousehold Wordshad been flagging, and Dickens attempted to boost these by issuing his new serial in weekly parts, instead of monthly parts, as hitherto This was alongside all the other activities in his life editing, directing, acting, his social work and speaking, plus all the domestic dramas he had Dickens worked best under pressure, but even he admitted that to write episodes of Hard Times week after week wascrushingDickens was a novelist, albeit an exceptionally talented novelist, and one of the first, but he was neither a philosopher nor a political economist and certainly not a revolutionary He was also aware that for the large part, his readers would have no truck with unionism He had set himself a well nigh impossible task.Dickens rallied for the underdog, and was keen to demonstrate the continuing inhumane conditions for the poor, and the new sort of constraints that industrialisation would bring in its wake for the workers But the way he depicts the good workers in this novel, Stephen Blackpool and Rachael, shows that his belief was in a sort of noble poor He thought they should accept their lot with dignity, and leave it to others to improve their conditions They are docile and harmless characters, working themselves to death When difficulties arise, they cannot be self sufficient They have no honourable alternative but to go cap in hand to their bosses, relying on a paternalistic system to help them They thus come across sometimes as mere mouthpieces for ideologies rather flat and unconvincing prototypes compared with the other characters in the book.Even if Dickens had had the time and space to develop this novel into the sort of Dickens novel which reigns supreme, it is doubtful whether it would serve the function he probably intended What it does do, is give a snapshot of people, rather than depict a mass movement We have individuals to represent the different types, and in Hard Times they unfortunately seemthan ever mere constructs to spout certain opinions This is probably always going to be a danger with any persuasive novel Dickens also provided a counterweight to these noble poor characters Just as inBarnaby Rudgehe had shown us that mob rule was not the answer, here too the organisers of the strike are shown as underhand manipulators, quick to remove themselves from any blame Slackbridge, the trade union agitator trying to convert the workers to unionism, is described as,not so honest not so manly, he was not so good humoured he substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid sense Mr Gradgrind s school, just as Josiah Bounderby s mill, is equally constrained, based on ideology, dry theory and a sort of blinkered ignorance of the emotional side of life Thomas Gradgrind, supported by the wonderfully named schoolmasterMr M Choakumchild , is not an evil, nor even an unkind man He is contrasted with Josiah Bounderby right at the start, and Dickens makes it plain in his introduction that a large part of the novel will be to show the growth and development of Gradgrind s character I certainly felt very sorry for him by the end.It has to be said, that flawed though this novel is, the characters are an absolute delight Chief for sheer entertainment value has to be Mrs Sparsit, Josiah Bounderby s elderly housekeeper with herCoriolanian style of nosewhich is always poking into other people s business anddense black eyebrowsShe has aristocratic connections by way of her great aunt Lady Scadgers, and considers herself a cut above her employer Her interactions with the blustering, pompous Josiah Bounderby, are a constant source of amusement There is the pantomime villain, James Harthouse, an exaggerated version of Steerforth inDavid CopperfieldI could almost imagine him twirling his moustache, smooth talking devil that he is a heartless and unprincipled young politician There is the anaemic fact spouting machine Bitzer And Mrs Gradgrind, a minor character, amusingly endearing, always telling her children they should be studying theirologies ,A little, thin, white, pink eyed bundle of shawls, of surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily who was always taking physic without any effect, and who, whenever she showed a symptom of coming to life, was invariably stunned by some weighty piece of fact tumbling on her Most memorably, when asked if she is in pain, she remarks vaguely,I think there s a pain somewhere in the room but I couldn t positively say that I have got itThere is the lisping Mr Sleary and his travelling circus Dickens always has to include a theatrical troupe, or some entertainers of this type in his novels, and his personal love of the exuberance and spontaneity of the circus, and the generosity of spirit of circus folk, shines through brightly When Sleary lisps,people mutht be amuthedit is really Dickens who is speaking Dickens held passionate views on the rights of everyone to amusements fighting against groups who advocated strict observance of the Sabbath, saying that Sunday was the only day that working people had to indulge in simple amusements, or even to attend museums and so forth To make a circus an integral part of the serious concerns of this novel s plot is quite a tour de force, but he achieves it Mr Sleary s circus is essential to both the beginning, where we are introduced to Louisa and Tom peeping under the curtain of the circus tent, intrigued by all the unfamiliar lights, drama, colour and action, and to the ending which, naturally, I shall not divulge.Louisa and Tom, sister and brother, are central characters Louisa would do anything for her brother,The Whelp , as Dickens calls him She loves Tom dearly, sullen though he is Louisa develops through experience, much as her father does she is a very strong character, whose initial sulkiness changes She has determination and obstinacy, but also a strong sense of duty and justice Through the story she moves through both indifference to her plight, and cynicism She undergoes trials and tribulations which might break any young spirit, but remains true to herself For those who unfairly castigate Dickens for docile females, look to Louisa or her friend Sissy Jupe, from the circus Or to Mrs Sparsit, of course, although she isof a grotesque than an heroic character No, in every single novel Dickens writes, he provides us with plenty of strong females It is clear however, that just as he does not like the poor to be too outspoken, he admires the quieter tenaciousness of women in extremis, and views this as an admirable female trait Interestingly, at the time of writing this novel, Dickens s own marriage was crumbling He had included three essays on divorce inHousehold Wordsthat month, and in Hard Times he portrays the plight of a man who is unable to divorce his burdensome wife, even though in this case she isa drunk , a hopeless wretched addict It is Josiah Bounderby who explains in great detail everything that would be involved in such a procedure,Why you d have to go to Doctors Commons with a suit, and you d have to go to a Court of Common Law with a suit, and you d have to get an Act of Parliament to enable you to marry again, and it would cost you I suppose from a thousand to fifteen hunded pound perhaps twice the money The character he is speaking to earns a mere few shillings a week But it seems pertinent that Dickens inserted this detail Dickens researched his novels quite well, reading a book on the Lancashire dialect prior to writing this, for instance, to make sure his representation of the characters speech was accurate Divorce was expensive, legally difficult, and socially unacceptable in the 19th century It looks as though Dickens underwent intensive research on how to obtain a divorce, to see if it would be feasible for himself In fact he separated from Catherine, with whom he had ten children, four years later in 1858, but never did divorce her There are fewer characters in this novel than usual, and none of them seem to be based on real people Dickens knew, and whom his readers knew In earlier novels there were often several of these in one novel It must have been a guilty pleasure for many reading a new serial by Dickens, to look out for a recognisable character, such as his erstwhile friend Hans Christian Andersen, whom he had maliciously immortalised in the odious character of Uriah Heep inDavid CopperfieldSo it is quite disappointing to find none included, just as it is disappointing to realise that any illustrations were drawn later on, by various artists, and only a very few within Dickens s own lifetime Presumably the constraints of writing to a weekly deadline impinged onthan the novel s text itself The critics views of Hard Times lurch from one extreme to the other One characterises it assullen socialismyet another s view is that it is hismasterpieceandhis only serious work of artThese views seem to be rather partisan, reflecting the political and socio economic views of the individual, rather than impartially judging any merit in, or assessment of, the novel itself It is undoubtedly not his best work, but it is enjoyable nevertheless Parts of it made me laugh out loud I felt suitably shocked, saddened and indignant at others It has all Dickens s sarcasm, wit, expostulation, sentiment and ridiculous cameos He can shift in a page turn from scathing satire to heart rending pathos In a way Hard Times is a throwback It is dissimilar to the majestic novels which immediately precede it, but isreminiscent of the biting sarcasm of the early novels such asOliver TwistIt does however show the maturity and skill of the later writer There is tragedy, frailty, robbery, treachery, deceit, impersonation, violence, greed, overarching ambition, possibly an attempted murder, imprisonment and deportation all humanity and inhumanity is here And what lingers is the message of the vital and enduring importance of the imagination and fantasy of a young life perilously close to being blighted by an upbringing blinkered by Utilitarian principles There is the satisfactory ending, characteristic of Dickens s novels, where all the characters are accounted for, and in general although not in every case the villains get their just desserts Hard Times is like a little taste of Dickens Sadly you do not get the depth of character, the richness of detail in his powerful descriptions, both of place and character, nor do you get the rich tapestry of convoluted plots Another critic wrote that it islikea menu card for a meal rather than one of Dickens s rich feasts,and this I find quite apt.But it is hugely enjoyable and could not be written by anyone else Give it a try, but if it is your first Dickens, please make sure it is not the only one You would miss out on so much How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death Where are the graces of my soul Where are the sentiments of my heart What have you done, oh, Father, What have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here said Louisa as she touched her heart


  6. Lisa Lisa says:

    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 My reading of theories of pedagogy and knowledge development usually is quite separate from my reading of fiction for the pure pleasure of being human But now recently I have come across several references to the wonderful Dickens 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 My reading of theories of pedagogy and knowledge development usually is quite separate from my reading of fiction for the pure pleasure of being human But now recently I have come across several references to the wonderful Dickensian caricature of positivism with the suggestive name of Gradgrind There is a war going on in the world of schooling, with a clear front between those who are in favour of the measurable fact based model that fictional Gradgrind tried on his own environment, with quite heartbreaking results, and those who have interpreted the opposite of Gradgrindianism as the way forward, and claim that inquiry, creativity and transferable skills are the pillars of education, and that facts are obsolete before they enter the heads of the suffering child vessels.Now I am quite sure that Dickens could have written a brilliant satire on the extreme opposite of Gradgrind s pedagogy if he had seen it in action How are children to develop ideas if they have no knowledge to get inspired by How are they going to proceed in inquiry if they have no basic understanding of the scientific concepts How are they going to create exciting and artistic visual and textual artefacts without the literacy skills that are the tools leading towards linguistic and artistic mastery How are they going to research a history topic independently that they have never heard of before, and definitely cannot put into context As happy as I am whenever Gradgrind shows up in the educational debates, I have to say that his very presence as a negative example of old school knowledge is an ironic symbol of the value of knowing the iconic history of literary or scientific reference points If you haven t had some kind of basic schooling in literature, you won t understand what Gradgrind s evil represents to evaluate his mentioning in the school debate, you have to know about Victorian standpoints, Dickens position within them, Gradgrind s failure, and educational theories over the past century that have swung like a pendulum from one extreme to the other.So cheers to the fact that facts are part of life and the devil is in the PART


  7. Jan-Maat Jan-Maat says:

    In current political discourse I have a particular dislike of the phrase Hard working families since it implies it is not good enough to be working, or in a family, or even merely both of those together No, only if it in addition to that you are sufficiently hard working are you good enough for your needs to be taken seriously in politics, and if you should slacken in your Stakhanovite ardour by preferring maybe to take a holiday rather than like Boxer in Animal Farm to work yourself into the In current political discourse I have a particular dislike of the phrase Hard working families since it implies it is not good enough to be working, or in a family, or even merely both of those together No, only if it in addition to that you are sufficiently hard working are you good enough for your needs to be taken seriously in politics, and if you should slacken in your Stakhanovite ardour by preferring maybe to take a holiday rather than like Boxer in Animal Farm to work yourself into the glue factory, then presumably policy makers will think to Hell with you then.I feel that it was to counter such utilitarianism and the implicit acceptance of GDP ever increasing and the positive balance sheet as the meaning and purpose of life that Dickens wrote this comic melodrama and and to assert the burning importance of creating in law a form of affordable and accessible divorce, which was a matter of particular concern to Dickens once he decided that he was bored of his wife and preferred rushing about after a young actress instead.This is possibly my favourite Dickens novel, apart from or including all my other favourite Dickens novels, although it is a shademelodramatic, than others at least it does not try to jerk the tears out of you It is short, punchy and humorous I think you see in this one, because it is short, how Dickens suffered from an excess of ideas so at the start we are introduced to school teachers Mr Mrs McChokemchild who appear twice in the novel before disappearing completely Indeed they are so insignificant that Dickens needn t have bothered naming them.Although the novel is set in a Northern English industrial town Coketown view spoiler although that suggests steel and metal working, it seems from the mentions of fluff that the business of Coketown is based around cotton and weaving rather than coke and coking hide spoiler this is curiously not much relevant to the plot Dickens published Gaskell s North and South, but he isn t interested in writing a shock novel about industrial Britain, Coketown as a setting is largely irrelevant to the story which again is not typical of Dickens for whom location is an important character generally in his books.Nice themes here are family, the bad characters commit the ultimate Victorian shibboleth and reject, deny, or pimp off their families view spoiler interestingly Dickens was pretty ruthless in managing his own wife and children hide spoiler , while the good characters cling to their families and maybe can even be redeemed through family love.This is novel that is above all about education the formation of hegemonic social values through schooling in this case a thorough fact obsessed utilitarianism against which fantasy and the right to amusement struggles to be heard, Dickens being Dickens, it is that latter voices which eventually cuts through the facts and eventually we see that Bounderby, the vigorous proponent of the school of hard knocks has in fact created himself as a the richest fantasy of all in his claim to be a self made man In a beautiful though unsubtle touch this is not a subtle book travelling circus performers lodge at a pub called the Pegasus Arms as though a winged horse wasn t fantastical enough this one has to have arms too In this book we are shown that without being taught or indulged with fantasy and pleasure from childhood, we end up depressed and struggling to find purpose or value in life and at continual risk from rogues and bounders view spoiler all of which brings to mind John Stuart Mill and his complete breakdown following on from a utilitarian education and his eventual recovery through poetry hide spoiler.This is an interesting one from the point of view of Dickens radicalism too which again rests on individual redemption this stands at variance with the theme of education if anybody was telling Dickens that he had to be coherent and congruent, that was not a voice he paid attention to


  8. Apatt Apatt says:

    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 mind of reasoning animals upon Facts nothing else will ever be of any service to themMr Gradgrind, Hard TimesWe don t need no educationWe don t need no thought controlAnother Brick in the Wall Part II Roger Waters, Pink Floyd Roger Waters lyrics could almost be a direct response to MrNow, 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 mind of reasoning animals upon Facts nothing else will ever be of any service to themMr Gradgrind, Hard TimesWe don t need no educationWe don t need no thought controlAnother Brick in the Wall Part II Roger Waters, Pink Floyd Roger Waters lyrics could almost be a direct response to Mr Gradgrind s ridiculous world view.The worst thing about Hard Times is the title, very off putting You get the feeling that the book will indeed give you a hard time and should be avoided like the plague particularly if you have never read Dickens before and assume that his books are hard to read As it turned out Hard Times is one of the easiest Dickens books to follow, neither the plot or the prose is particularly convoluted It is also one of his shortest and most concise, clocking in at a measly 350 or so pages instead of 1000 like most of his novels.The major theme, as far as I can discern, is the effect of stifling upbringing and overly rigid fact based education at the expense of allowing children to cultivate their imagination Facts and figures are essential for the development of intellect but they need to be balanced with fanciful stories and leisurely pastime The novel s protagonist Louisa was raised and homeschooled by her father to only be concerned with facts facts facts and tales of fantasy, circuses etc, are boycotted This has the effect of turning an innately decent loving girl into a living refrigerator The effect on her brother is even worse, as he grows up to be a dissipated, deceitful and generally useless individual.This being a Dickens novel the plight of the poor and the injustice society inflicts on them is depicted with a fierce passion Both the masters factory owners and trade unionists are portrayed in very poor light To balance the unsavory characters Dickens also introduces us to his stock nice , simple and honest characters and several eccentric ones Also, even with the serious issues, Dickens wants to bring to your attention in this book, he never forgets his storytelling duties, Hard Times is well paced, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and never drags.The reason I enjoy reading about Dickens characters is the reason his detractors criticize him for His supporting characters tend to be colorful in appearance, behavior and speech However, they are also frequently cartoonish and unbelievable as real people This is perfectly acceptable to me because I don t think Dickens intention is to write ultra real gritty fiction The crazy characters are there to entertain and also function as caricatures of certain types of people for metaphorical purposes For example Josiah Bounderby one of the antagonists seems like some kind of angry red balloon, all bluster and extreme arrogance His housekeeper Mrs Sparsit is super aristocratic and a real nasty piece of work James Harthouse, a total cad with the seduction of Louisa in mind His slick patter is very amusing and brings to mind one of Oscar Wilde soutrageous motormouth characters.Dickens also gets a lot of flak for his melodramatic sentimental plots and deus ex machina All true but without writing a tedious defence of the great man I would simply say that I am OK with it all I always find his fiction to be accessible, entertaining and poignant His prose is also a work of art, sometimes sardonic sometimes lyrical Again the haters find him verbose, and again I enjoy his verbosity.My audiobook version is superbly performed by actor Martin Jarvis, definitely not just a narration, but an actual dramatic vocal performance with tons of different voices and accents.In conclusion, this alleged review seemslike an exercise in Dickens fanboying now that s something you don t see every day than a proper review Ah well, it s the best I can do at this time of night.Last words go to Mr Sleary, circus manager extraordinaire who speaks with a lispPeople mutht be amuthed They can t be alwayth a learning, nor yet they can t be alwayth a working, they an t made for it You mutht have uth, Thquire Do the withe thing and the kind thing too, and make the betht of uth not the wurthtThis


  9. Piyangie Piyangie says:

    Hard Times is my return to Charles Dickens as an adult I have read Oliver Twist and David Copperfield as a child I didn t have an appetite for Dickens when I was young, for his subjects were sad and depressing But as an adult, I understand him better He touched so many sides of the society which were rarely spoken of before He penetrated into human minds so thoroughly and exposed both their black and white sides Although these qualities in his writing made me sad and depress before, the sa Hard Times is my return to Charles Dickens as an adult I have read Oliver Twist and David Copperfield as a child I didn t have an appetite for Dickens when I was young, for his subjects were sad and depressing But as an adult, I understand him better He touched so many sides of the society which were rarely spoken of before He penetrated into human minds so thoroughly and exposed both their black and white sides Although these qualities in his writing made me sad and depress before, the same qualities have made me fall in love with his writing now Getting back to the book, Hard Times is Dickens s shortest novel Through a well outlined and well written story, Dickens comments on lives, living and conditions of towns in the light of industrialization This social commentary gives a perfect picture on the lives and conditions of living of working class people and the dominating power exercised on them by their masters over every aspect of their lives, suppressing them and using them to secure their wealth and position on life There is also a strong criticism on utilitarianism This theory was introduced in the aftermath of industrial revolution so as to make it easy for the masters to control the working class, depriving them of any capacity to reason and making them live a submissive life according to their whims and fancies Dickens s use of Facts against Reason throughout the book subtly mocks the theory and exposes the social downfall that it would lead to He brings the character of Louisa Gradgring and demonstrates what tragedies one would face if they are suppressed of their capacity to feel and to reason Although it is a little overstated, the point is clearly proved I liked the character variety in the book They ranged from kind, goodhearted, sweet tempered to cunning, boastful, treacherous This wide variety added colour and contrast to the book The story was engaging, his social views kept me well connected with it all along I enjoyed his satire very much Dickens is a realistic writer of the Victorian era and that is the secret of his popularity even today


  10. Helene Jeppesen Helene Jeppesen says:

    This book is another evidence of Charles Dickens brilliancy when it comes to writing He starts with one person and her destiny, but gradually the story becomesandintricate and complex, and in the end you end up with a completely different story from what you started out with I have quite an ambivalent relationship to Charles Dickens and his books Some of them I love, some of them confuse me or end up disappointing me Hard Times was a good story, but I was mildly disappointed w This book is another evidence of Charles Dickens brilliancy when it comes to writing He starts with one person and her destiny, but gradually the story becomesandintricate and complex, and in the end you end up with a completely different story from what you started out with I have quite an ambivalent relationship to Charles Dickens and his books Some of them I love, some of them confuse me or end up disappointing me Hard Times was a good story, but I was mildly disappointed with the fact that it changes direction I wanted to continue reading about Sissy and her destiny, but I was disappointed to realize that her story became kind of a parallel plot to the main plot Nevertheless, the main plot was definitely full of surprises and at times kept you at the edge of your seat, and I liked that However, I can t disregard the fact that I was quite bored during most of this novel I felt like the story becameandpredictable, and I felt like it kept dragging on the same characters and their worries and views on life Therefore, I ended up rating this one 3 stars, because it s definitely worth a read, but it s not my favourite of Dickens