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Hard Times by Charles Dickens
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Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,004103403 (3.52)388
  1. 00
    The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (TimForrest65)
  2. 01
    The Professor by Charlotte Brontë (CurrerBell)
    CurrerBell: The Professor and Hard Times don't have all that much in common — and even less so do CB and CD have that much in common — but there's an interesting conversational exchange in The Professor, in the last chapter but one, that reminds me of the "reason vs. sensibility" theme in Hard Times.… (more)
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English (95)  Spanish (4)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All (103)
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Dickens shows us the lives of several characters in Coketown, from a father who teaches strict belief in fact and will brook no wonder in his children, to children themselves who lead tortured lives because of this theory of education, to a blustering banker who is always too happy to brag about his humble beginnings, to a handful of the humble but good working folk of the town. Their lives intermesh in various ways over the course of several years.

Although there's barely one character in the novel whom I could think of without a good eyeroll, Dickens still weaves a tale that I couldn't resist following through to the end. I love that the wicked don't necessarily get their comeuppance, and the happiness due the good guys isn't completely pure - the complexities of the plot see to that - and despite my misgivings at the beginning, I'm glad that I stuck with it and quite enjoyed it by the end. ( )
  electrascaife | May 13, 2018 |
Nearly every Dickens book I’ve read has been a disappointment. “Hard Times” is no exception.

I like the author’s humour, but it doesn’t surface enough in this novel.

Apart from a few good scenes here and there, most of the time I was bored with overlong descriptions, with too much “telling” and not enough “showing”.

I respect Charles Dickens for his high status as an author, and I wish I liked his writing style because of this, but – alas! – I don’t. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Dec 21, 2017 |
(placeholder dates)
I know it's a classic and the literary mavens love it, but it's dense and depressing.
( )
  librisissimo | Nov 28, 2017 |
In a sense, this reading was a re-reading for me. I had listened to it as an audiobook, and found that while the accents in the audio version were represented here by writing, details that had escaped me in the audio version were written much more clearly (Mrs. Sparsit, for example) and were easier for me to grasp their impact.

This book takes place in the world of Coketown, somewhere in Northern England during the height of the decimation of both people and landscape that was the Industrial Revolution. Aged Stephen Blackpool works in the factory and seeks solitude from his addicted wife; young Louise Gradgrind tries to grow up on only "facts" and not "imagination" that any child should; loud and boisterous Bounderby is the village overseer with an unbelievable past.

Bringing children up on "Facts, facts, facts" was the educational phenomenon of its time; echos of an emphasis on STEM are the modern equivalent. Yet when a circus comes to town with its emphasis on imagination, the two young Gradgrind children are exposed to a world that is forbidden to them. Louisa is able to recognize the lack in her spirit for what it is, but her younger brother, the "Whelp", is not and it consumes him.

There is little interaction between these worlds; Stephen tries to come to Mr. Bounderby to ask for a divorce, but he is admonished for wanting "turtle soup and golden spoons" and sent on his way. The hypocrisy is that when Mrs. Louisa Bounderby decides to end her marriage to this blustering swaggerer, she is granted a physical, if not a legal, separation that the lower class was not.

The parallels within society that are shown in this book are still relevant, and for once that is refreshing in a Dickens book. Blustering hypocrites, children needing access to their imagination, and workers' rights are still themes we need to deal with as a society. ( )
  threadnsong | Sep 17, 2017 |
The entrance of kind, caring, and imaginative little Sissy into the fact dominated Gradgrind family surprisingly does little
to change the older children, Tom and Louisa. Tom becomes more of a selfish and self-indulgent hypocrite, while Louisa
oddly stays distant from the carefree and creative life that Sissy could open for them.

Louisa remains so flat in this "eminently practical" existence that she comes across as a depressive.
She must have been strikingly beautiful for the handsome, intelligent, willful, rake and villain
James Harthouse to be attracted to her even as a passing conquest.

The plot evolves so boringly slowly that Harthouse emerges as the only halfway exciting and intriguing character
once good man Stephen Blackpool has left Coketown. Their names could be reversed since the hero is a
sturdy house of heart and the other boasts of a pool of darkness where his heart felt morals should be.

Other characters are simply too good to be true or just plain old Dicksonian caricatures.

Worse still is that translations are needed for Stephen's noble dialect and Stearly's lisp -
they are both like reading paragraphs of baby talk.

Only a few memorable quotes among all the admirable descriptions of smoke and fumes:

"What does he come here cheeking us for, then?" ( )
  m.belljackson | Aug 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (82 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dickens, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Charles KeepingIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterton, G.K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foot, DingleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greiffenhagen, MauriceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odden, KarenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richardson, JoannaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shapiro, CharlesAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sothoron, Karen HenricksonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, F.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
INSCRIBED TO THOMAS CARLYLE
First words
Now, what I want is, Facts.
'I am three parts mad, and the fourth delirious, with perpetual rushing at Hard Times,' wrote Dickens in a letter to his friend and later biographer John Forster on 14 July 1854. (Introduction)
Quotations
She was a most wonderful woman for prowling about the house. How she got from story to story was a mystery beyond solution. A lady so decorous in herself, and so highly connected, was not to be suspected of dropping over the banisters or sliding down them, yet her extraordinary facility of locomotion suggested the wild idea. Another noticeable circumstance in Mrs. Sparsit was, that she was never hurried. She would shoot with consummate velocity from the roof to the hall, yet would be in full possession of her breath and dignity on the moment of her arrival there. Neither was she ever seen by human vision to go at a great pace.
There was a library in Coketown, to which general access was easy. Mr. Gradgrind greatly tormented his mind about what the people read in this library: a point whereon little rivers of tabular statements periodically flowed into the howling ocean of tabular statements, which no diver ever got to any depth in and came up sane. It was a disheartening circumstance, but a melancholy fact, that even these readers persisted in wondering. They wondered about human nature, human passions, human hopes and fears, the struggles, triumphs and defeats, the cares and joys and sorrows, the lives and deaths of common men and women! They sometimes, after fifteen hours' work, sat down to read mere fables about men and women, more or less like themselves, and about children, more or less like their own. They took De Foe to their bosoms, instead of Euclid, and seemed to be on the whole more comforted by Goldsmith than by Cocker. Mr. Gradgrind was for ever working, in print and out of print, at this eccentric sum, and he never could make out how it yielded this unaccountable product
For the first time in her life Louisa had come into one of the dwellings of the Coketown Hands; for the first time in her life she was face to face with anything like individuality in connection with them. She knew of their existence by hundreds and by thousands. She knew what results in work a given number of them would produce in a given space of time. She knew them in crowds passing to and from their nests, like ants or beetles. But she knew from her reading infinitely more of the ways of toiling insects than of these toiling men and women.

Something to be worked so much and paid so much, and there ended; something to be infallibly settled by laws of supply and demand; something that blundered against those laws, and floundered into difficulty; something that was a little pinched when wheat was dear, and over-ate itself when wheat was cheap; something that increased at such a rate of percentage, and yielded such another percentage of crime, and such another percentage of pauperism; something wholesale, of which vast fortunes were made; something that occasionally rose like a sea, and did some harm and waste (chiefly to itself), and fell again; this she knew the Coketown Hands to be. But, she had scarcely thought more of separating them into units, than of separating the sea itself into its component drops.
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Book description
Murdering the Innocent! Facts, Facts, Facts. Teach these children facts, not fancies. Sense, not sentimentality. Conformity, not curiosity. Proof and demonstration, not poetry and drama...On this bleak tenet is run the Gradgrind model day school in Hard Times.

No other work of Dickens presents so relentless an indictment against the callous greed of the Victorian industrial society and its misapplied utilitarian philosophy as this fiercest of his novels. With savage bitterness Dickens unmasks the hellish industries that imprisoned the bodies of the helpless labor class and the equally satanic institutions that shacked the development of their minds. 271
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140430423, Paperback)

In the persons of Gradgrind and Bounderby, Dickens stigmatized the prevalent philosophy of utilitarianism which, whether in school or factory, allowed human beings to be caged in a dreary scenery of brick terraces and foul chimneys, to be enslaved to machines and reduced to numbers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:21 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Dickens's widely read satirical account of the Industrial Revolution. Dickens creates the Victorian industrial city of Coketown, in northern England, and its unforgettable citizens, such as the unwavering utilitarian Thomas Gradgrind and the factory owner Josiah Bounderby, and the result is his famous critique of capitalist philosophy, the exploitative force he believed was destroying human creativity and joy. This edition includes new notes to the text.… (more)

» see all 51 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014143967X, 0141195207, 0141198346, 0141199563

Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 190943888X, 1909438898

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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