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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,856120600 (3.52)427
An indictment of capitalist exploitation during the Industrial Revolution, the hard lessons wrought by zealous materialism awaken characters to a new philosophy and to hope.
  1. 00
    Nice Work by David Lodge (KayCliff)
  2. 00
    The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (TimForrest65)
  3. 11
    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 (111)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (120)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
Justly one of Dickens' least-read novels, Hard Times is a bit of an anomaly in several ways. His 10th novel, Dickens was writing in the journal Household Words in 1854, which gave him a lot less space than usual - this is perhaps a third the length of your average Dickens work. It's also a fairly straightforward story that strikes one more as a moral treatise than anything else. Aside from the famous circus sequence, the novel feels dry and a little perfunctory. The Lancashire characters' accents are also questionable at best, and indecipherable at worst.

George Bernard Shaw liked this book, and it's not hard to see why. This is perhaps Dickens' most blatantly political book, an argument against society becoming too rational and utilitarian, too capitalist at the extent of humanity. It was an argument that had already been greatly lost by 1854, and one we are still fighting today in 2016. In that sense, Hard Times still encapsulates Dickens' core philosophies. At the same time, this is never going to be one of the works for which CD is remembered. His sheer talent is still there, in spades, but it's notable that after this work, Dickens entered the third and final act of his career, in which his novels were allowed to take their time, and he'd never sound a dull note again. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
This novel is peculiarly short for Dickens, sandwiched sequentially between the bulky Bleak House and longer Little Dorrit. It doesn't make for faster pacing. The introduction to my edition bemoans how slow it is through the first two thirds, blaming that for its dull reception upon publication. Perhaps Dickens knew he had a less popular work on his hands and decided to cut his losses with a shorter work. Or perhaps he sensed how much dark was being reflected as his marriage was in the throes of collapse and he needed a quicker escape from it.

The social message targets here are primarily education and the industrial age, paired nicely since Dickens paints them both as tarnished by unrelenting repetition and regimen, drained of colour. He doesn't draw a direct line between them, but it isn't hard to imagine Gradgrind's system as the perfect factory for churning out mindless drones and aspiring businessmen as grist for the more literal version. The tone feels more didactic than his other novels to this point, filled with portents and warnings. Dickens dispenses with any budding romance in the wings, and the typically happy fates he dispenses to his characters are drawn thin and pale. Mr. Sleary stands as the lone representative of Dickens' lighter novels, but his presence is minimal. His slurred speech feels symbolic, as if Dickens holds him retained behind a frosted glass. There's some maturity in this novel, a staying of sentimentality that could be read as a more serious literary effort. It can also be read, ironically, as Dickens allowing some of the Gradgrind school in himself, at the cost of his more joyful indulgences. ( )
  Cecrow | Apr 24, 2020 |
Liked: years later, some of the characters are still strongly imprinted in my mind after the rest of the book has faded. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
Great book. I loved the ending. I laughed and cried through the whole book. The characters are wonderful and you really want to know what is going to happen to them. ( )
  LVStrongPuff | Dec 19, 2019 |
From Hardy's Victorian England of gentle walks amongst the furze on the heath to Dicken's Victorian England of dark, polluted skies above smoky industrial northern towns. Ah, Dickens loves a bit of dreariness!

Hard Times is a right hook in the face of class snobbery and prejudice. It opens with a couple of pompous middle-aged men delighting in pontificating on the merits of facts in the total absence of feelings, fancies or fun. Their lives are governed by arrogant decisions and judgments made on their skewed version of facts, with their assessments of people's characters clouded entirely by their class prejudice around the honesty and capability of those less fortunate than themselves. Ruling their families and homes with a cold and efficient lack of sentimentality, Dickens ultimately teaches these old fools a harsh lesson in what's actually important in life (although sadly one is too far gone with his own sense of self-worth and importance to ever change).

Although quite bleak in places, and in true Victorian style faintly ridiculous at times (pass me the smelling salts - again), I loved the ultimate message of this book. Dickens is very clever at engineering an exposition of the truth that real wealth lies in goodness and happiness, and rounds off the novel nicely with the very people who were most looked down on at the beginning of the book being the characters who ultimately are proven to have the truest riches.

This is only my second Dickens novel, and I didn't love it just as much as Great Expectations, but once I got into the swing of it I still enjoyed it.

4 stars - some particularly unlikeable characters, but a great jaunt all the same. ( )
  AlisonY | Nov 20, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (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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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)
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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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
Πλούσιοι και φτωχοί


Ο Κάρολος Ντίκενς (1812- 1870), αν και βίωσε από μικρός τη φρίκη της ανέχειας, δεν θεώρησε ποτέ τον εαυτό του επαναστάτη. Ηταν ένα είδος αυθόρμητου ριζοσπάστη που παρέμενε δύσπιστος απέναντι στη λαϊκή εξουσία. Εχθρικός ταυτόχρονα προς τους κυβερνώντες, δεν φάνηκε διατεθειμένος ν' ανατρέψει τους θεσμούς στους οποίους ασκούσε κριτική. Κι ενώ ήταν πεπεισμένος ότι τα όρια των τάξεων δεν είναι στεγανά, δεν αμφισβήτησε την ύπαρξη αυτών των ορίων.

Ωστόσο, όταν μιλάμε για τη φτώχεια και την εργατική εκμετάλλευση που ανθούσαν στη βικτοριανή Αγγλία, γιά την χλιδή των λίγων και την εξαθλίωση των πολλών, για τις στρατιές των ρακένδυτων παιδιών στους δρόμους και για συμμορίες ανηλίκων, όπως και για το τι σημαίνει ραγδαίος εκβιομηχανισμός, το έργο του Ντίκενς ανακαλούμε. Τα μυθιστορήματα αυτού του πληθωρικού και παθιασμένου επαγγελματία συγγραφέα, που προτιμούσε ν' απευθύνεται όχι στη λογική, αλλά στο θυμικό των αναγνωστών του, διδάσκοντάς τους το σωστό.

Το «Δύσκολα χρόνια» (μετ. Σ. Μαυροειδή - Παπαδάκη), δημοσιεύτηκε σε συνέχειες στο περιοδικό «Household Words» που εξέδιδε ο ίδιος, κατά τη διάρκεια του 1854.

Ο «Ολιβερ Τουίστ» είχε προηγηθεί, ο «Δαβίδ Κόπερφιλντ» επίσης, αλλά από τις «Μεγάλες προσδοκίες» δεν είχε ακόμα γράψει γραμμή.

Στα 42 του χρόνια, ο Ντίκενς είχε ξεφύγει για τα καλά από τις δυσοίωνες προοπτικές που προμήνυαν κατά τη νεότητά του η ανεπαρκής του εκπαίδευση, ο εγκλεισμός τού μονίμως χρεωμένου πατέρα του στη φυλακή, και η σύντομη θητεία του ίδιου -στην τρυφερή ηλικία των 12- σε εργοστάσιο βερνικιού. Ειδικά το τελευταίο, το έφερε τόσο βαρέως που το αποσιωπούσε απ' όλους, κι απ' τη γυναίκα του ακόμα, σαν επτασφράγιστο μυστικό. Κλητήρας σε δικηγορικό γραφείο στην εφηβεία του κι αργότερα κοινοβουλευτικός συντάκτης, άρχισε στα 22 του να δημοσιεύει δοκιμιακού τύπου διηγήματα από τη ζωή του Λονδίνου, με το ψευδώνυμο Μποζ. Και μέσα στην επόμενη διετία, χάρη στα κείμενα που έγραψε για να συνοδέψει μια σειρά κωμικών σχεδίων του Ρ. Σέιμουρ (τα «Pickwick Papers»), είχε κατακτήσει τη φήμη του δημοφιλέστερου συγγραφέα.

Η εμπειρία του Ντίκενς ως εργάτη, όσο τραυματική κι αν υπήρξε, αποδείχτηκε πολύτιμη για τους «Δύσκολους καιρούς». Ως ενήλικας, άλλωστε, ενδιαφερόταν πάντα για τις συνθήκες κάτω από τις οποίες ζούσαν κι εργάζονταν οι στερημένοι από υλικά αγαθά συμπολίτες του.

Το συγκεκριμένο μυθιστόρημά του θεωρείται και το πλέον «στρατευμένο» του: με τη δράση του να εκτυλίσσεται σε μια επινοημένη βιομηχανική πόλη που παρέπεμπε στο Μάντσεστερ, αποτυπώνει το αβυσσαλέο χάσμα που χώριζε τους πλούσιους από τους φτωχούς, καταγγέλλοντας όχι μόνο τον μετασχηματισμό της Αγγλίας σ' ένα απέραντο εργοστάσιο, αλλά και τον εγωισμό των μεσοαστών και των μεγαλοαστών που αντιμετώπιζαν την εργατική τάξη σαν ένα άμορφο σύνολο από «χέρια».

Οπως στα περισσότερα έργα του, έτσι και στα «Δύσκολα χρόνια», καθώς αφηγείται τον βίο και την πολιτεία των μελών της εύπορης οικογένειας Γκράντγκραϊντ και μιας πλειάδας χαρακτήρων -από τσιρκολάνους και εργάτες μέχρι αυτοδημιούργητους τραπεζίτες- ο Ντίκενς επιχειρεί μια τοιχογραφία της εποχής του, εξερευνά ζητήματα όπως της κοινωνικής αναρρίχησης ή του συνδικαλισμού, του ανικανοποίητου έρωτα ή του πάθους του τζόγου, προτάσσει τα αισθήματα της συμπόνιας απέναντι στους μη ευνοημένους, υπογραμμίζει τη συμβολή της γυναίκας στην αποκατάσταση της κοινωνικής γαλήνης, αμφισβητεί ένα εκπαιδευτικό σύστημα που στηρίζεται στον άκρατο ορθολογισμό, κι όλα αυτά, καταφεύγοντας πότε στην οξύτατη σάτιρα και πότε στο συναισθηματισμό.

Πρότυπο βικτοριανού μεσοαστού κι ο ίδιος, ως άνθρωπος που είχε προκόψει χάρη στην ακατάβλητη εργατικότητά του και την απήχηση των γραπτών του, ο Ντίκενς εξέφρασε όσο κανείς από τους σύγχρονους ομοτέχνους του τις φιλοδοξίες αλλά και τις ενοχές των εκπροσώπων της τάξης του. Το μεγαλύτερο άλλωστε μέρος του κοινού του απ' αυτούς προερχόταν. Στη βικτοριανή Αγγλία, μια από τις σημαντικότερες μορφές διασκέδασης μέσα στα σπιτικά, ήταν η ανάγνωση ηθικοπλαστικών κειμένων.

Κι ο Κάρολος Ντίκενς το είχε καταφέρει: τα ανθρωπιστικά γραπτά του με το ισχυρό ηθικό μήνυμα, ήταν κατάλληλα για όλη την οικογένεια. Οπως βεβαίωνε το 1895 ένας κριτικός, «στα έργα του δεν θα βρείτε ούτε μία σελίδα την οποία μία μητέρα θα χρειαζόταν ν' αποκρύψει από την έφηβη θυγατέρα της».

7 - 25/06/2006

Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870.
Δύσκολα χρόνια / Κάρολος Ντίκενς · μετάφραση Σοφία Μαυροειδή - Παπαδάκη. - Αθήνα : Ελευθεροτυπία, 2006. - 332σ. · 20x14εκ.
Επανέκδοση: "Γράμματα", 1979. Έκδοση εκτός εμπορίου: διανεμήθηκε μαζί με την "Κυριακάτικη Ελευθεροτυπία" στις 25.6.2006.
Γλώσσα πρωτοτύπου: αγγλικά
Τίτλος πρωτοτύπου: Hard Times
ISBN 960-8359-31-7, ISBN-13 978-960-8359-31-4 (Μαλακό εξώφυλλο) [Κυκλοφορεί]
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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

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