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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

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  1. 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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Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Hardly the most exhilarating Dickens and pretty transparent. No very interesting characters. Liked Harthouse the best and wish they wrote more books about rakish characters though perhaps we only like them because we only ever know them in passing. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Hard Times - Charles Dickens ***

Dickens has always been one of those authors that I have to force myself to pick up, but usually once I make a committed effort I really do enjoy his books. I know it is going to be hard work, but usually the reward when I finish the novel justifies the means. Over the years I have read half a dozen or so of his works, and pretty much found them to my liking. Hard Times is one of his lesser known novels and one that I was totally unfamiliar with so I had no idea what to expect.

So what is it about? Set in the fictional area of Coketown (allegedly based on Preston) we follow the lives of the inhabitants. The poor working and their tribulations, and the rich who have strong ideals on how the rest of society should act. All are trapped within the industrial revolution, but obviously some fare from it better than others. As usual with Dickens we see things from both sides of the spectrum. The wealthy side being Mr Gradgrind and Mr Bounder, a pair of gentlemen that only deal with facts and not emotions and believed these virtues should be instilled on the rest of society. The impoverished side encompasses Stephen Blackpool, a hard working man that has fallen upon hard times and cannot see a way out unless he is treated as an equal with those more fortunate. Throw into the mix a few dodgy dealings by Tom Gradgrind (Mr Gradgrind’s eldest son) and you have the outline of the book. Although even after sitting down and reading the damn thing I still struggled to describe it.

What did I like? I suppose the descriptions of the town and working conditions were pretty spot on and gave a vivid impression of the times. I also liked some of the characters, Dickens always has a way of making them stand out with their own personalities so that you can almost feel what they are thinking.

What didn’t I like? Most if it if I am truthfully honest. The story dragged on and on and on, I never really felt as if it was going anywhere in particular. Some of the parts were almost forgotten about (such as the married life of Mr Bounderby & Louisa) and the reader is just left wondering especially as these events were such an integral part of the early plotlines. I can read most things and battle through, but the literary device of writing peoples speech in dialect is one of my peeves, it makes it even worse in Hard Times as one of the characters, Mr Sleary, also speaks with a lisp. I found myself having to reread whole chapters just to try and decipher what was being said, whilst other people’s speech reflects a sort of dodgy Northern accent, some people may find it adds to the authenticity I just find it bloody annoying. In reality I think this book was written as a way of Dickens getting something off his chest. It could almost be described as one long rant from beginning to end, and there is nothing wrong with that, but at least make it interesting. At times it really did just bore me to tears and I was tempted to just Google the ending and save myself some time, but I did stick it out even though the 300 pages seemed more like a few thousand. Not one of his books I will ever revisit or recommend.
A fair 3 stars, I couldn’t give it more for obvious reasons, and to be fair I don’t think Dickens could ever deserve less, even if the book wasn’t to my own personal taste. ( )
  Bridgey | Mar 24, 2017 |
I think I’m fortunate in not having been confronted with long-form Dickens: prior to reading Hard Times, I’d only read the very short A Christmas Carol. Even this short novel, with its simple plot and few characters drags its feet in places, but thankfully those are few and far between.

For much of the novel, the story is told nearly allegorically, with characters being clearly all-good and all-evil and practically defined as stereotypes; but as it progresses shades of gray are introduced, some creative decisions are made, and the plot takes a few turns that move it away from predictability. I particularly liked the characters of Louisa Gradgrind and James Harthouse -- not only did I think their subplot the most interesting, their characters are also more carefully drawn than the others. The book in general moves forwards at a decent enough pace (contrary to what I’d been led to believe about Dickens), and towards the end a few surprises manage to turn up. On the whole, not a bad read. ( )
  Petroglyph | Feb 3, 2017 |
Sissy Jupe and Stephen Blackpool are the two characters that stand out. Sissy is fearless when she does what she thinks is right and the best; Stephen is fearless in keeping a promise. They are the ones who touch you. ( )
  siok | Jan 31, 2017 |
A short, readable Dickens that includes Dickens' usual inimitable indictment of modern education and domestic abuse. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (91 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chesterton, G.K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foot, DingleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greiffenhagen, MauriceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary 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, FIllustratorsecondary 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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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)

"The 'terrible mistake' was the contemporary utilitarian philosophy, expounded in Hard Times (1854) as the Philosophy of Fact by the hard-headed disciplinarian Thomas Gradgrind. But the novel, Dickens's shortest, is more than a polemical tract for the times; the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father is one of Dickens's triumphs. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system" -- publisher websit (July 2007).… (more)

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16 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014143967X, 0141195207, 0141198346, 0141199563

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 190943888X, 1909438898

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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