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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

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Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
Reading this back to back with Pickwick Papers this work is darker and more cynical. But still an excellent book, by turns comic, thoughtful and timely, another great novel by Mr. Dickens. Also a masterful performance by the reader, Anton Lesser. ( )
  charlie68 | Feb 23, 2015 |
This is my 10th Dickens novel, read in rough chronological order of publication. I've read worse, and better. Mercifully a single deck and not the normal triple. There are a few genuinely touching scenes of reconciliation and the theme of the need for love over facts is somewhat modern in this age of information and answers. I don't think this novel will stick in my memory for very long, there is a lot of cliche Dickens, although the quality of the writing - choice of words and sentence structure - as always elevates it above genre fiction.

I was bemused by the association of "Roman" with the evil characters (easily searched in an electronic edition). Mr. Bounderby has a "Roman nose", Mrs. Sparsit also has a Roman nose and eyebrows Coriolanian. She is a "Roman matron going outside the city walls to treat with an invading general." Mr. Slackbridge is compared with a "Roman Brutus", and Mr. Bounderby plays a "Roman part". There were many stereotypes wrapped up in the word "Roman" for a Victorian reader. Dickens seems to blame the upper-class Aristocratic association with Enlightenment ideals who allied with bankers (big-nosed Mediterraneans ie. Jews, foreigners) that then exploited the good people of England, literally sending them down the "hell pit" to die. It's simplistic and ultimately racist in a 19th century way, but overlooked since the message is humanitarian to improve the condition of the working poor. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Jan 8, 2015 |
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 | Jul 22, 2014 |
Read during Winter 2006/2007

It took me a small eternity to read this fairly thin Dickens novel. I'm not quite sure why beacause I completely and throroughlt enjoyed it. I guess it just took having the free and uninterupted hours of plane ride to make it possible. The story is really a stunning condemnation of all that Victorian society valued and rings very true today. Melodramatic, yes, but still very good. My only issues were the trade union angle, which I failed to understand, and some of the dialectal writting, that I almost had to mumble aloud to understand.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
The first Dickens novel I read it put me off him for several more years. And re-reading it many years later I am not much fonder of it. It is overly didactic, not particularly humorous, the plot feels relatively basic, and the depiction of the industrial revolution is more stereotypical and less imaginative than the fog, dust and red tape of Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit respectively. That is not to say there are not good passages and the evolution of Mr. Gradgrind, his son Tom, and their relationship is particularly well done. But Tom's sister Louisa is much more cardboard and the humorous characters like Mr. Sleary and Miss Sparsit are both somewhat annoying.

It is unfortunate that, as Dickens' shortest novel, this one is probably the most assigned in school (which is where I first read it), it really does not serve as the best introduction to the author. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (98 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chesterton, G.K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foot, DingleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greiffenhagen, MauriceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richardson, JoannaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shapiro, CharlesAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, FIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Now, what I want is, Facts.
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:27 -0400)

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"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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15 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

Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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