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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

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8,281111607 (3.51)405
  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 (102)  Spanish (4)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (111)
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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?

My friend Levi Stahl once noted how reading Henry James utilized the higher gears of his brain. I have always relished that sentiment, though I fear Henry James is above my pay grade. It is a different kettle with Dickens, my maudlin thoughts drift to Cassavetes on Capra, a reworking of my already repurposed grace. Get behind me, social realism.

Hard Times is an interesting collection of set pieces collected in a smelting town with a set of characters which honestly can be seen in Turgenev. The novel doesn't afford an arc much as a series of consequences. It is here where the other (evil) Scott Walker from Wisconsin finds his nocturnal emission: organized labor chokes the life out of people. It couldn't be inhaling coal dust or toiling every day bereft of Vitamin C, no, it is collective bargaining and an improper educational system. I should note that the Governor isn't a character in this novel. Only his peculiar sentiment.

Siblings are raised in a Spartan pedagogic environment, one which worships facts and retention as opposed to creativity. The daughter then marries a self made Scott Pruitt, while the wayward son fancies gambling and living above his station. There is no mention of an ostrich jacket. There is an honest worker. He can't abide by the union and, before Bob's your uncle, he is fingered for a robbery. Life can only aspire to transcend self-interest. It remains but an aspiration. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is the version from 1834, as originally published serialized in Household Words. Highly recommended, as read by Phil Benson, who has the perfect accent and intonation for Dickens' only northern novel. I didn't realize till almost the end that "Hard" has a double meaning, not just difficult (as in the life of poor working people) but unemotional and uncaring. The children are taught to be hard, which puts Luisa in a bad marriage and Tom into an immoral lifestyle. Bounderby is hard on others. It is Gradgrind's turn away from being hard which helps save everyone, and the characters who were not hard at all (Stephen, Rachael, and Sissy) meet their various fates but always retain their integrity. ( )
  lisahistory | Dec 7, 2018 |
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. ( )
1 vote therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
Hard Times by Charles Dickens explores and exposes the working conditions in the factories of Northern England in the 1850’s. Dickens was obviously a forward thinker and many of his novels point out conditions that needed improving, in Hard Times he turns his attention on the ambitious businessmen, the educators, the gentry and the would-be gentry who take advantage and exploit the workers. First and foremost, Hard Times appears to be a critique of the politics and economics of the day. Contrary to the Temperance Leagues and Sabbatarians, he believed that hard-working people deserved recreational pursuits to relieve the tedium and stress of their workaday lives. It is also apparent that he felt that children need to be encouraged to use their imagination, that fairy tales and make believe are important to their development.

This is the shortest of his novels and is set in the fictitious industrial town of Coketown where the factories belch smoke all day and soot covers the landscape. The subject matter is as dark as the setting, as we read of abuse, suppression and betrayal. This is not a book to read for it’s happy ending, being much darker than David Copperfield or Oliver Twist. The characters on these pages do not get a chance to turn their lives around.

I read Hard Times in installment form just as it was originally published in 1854 and although it is a socially conscious, agenda-drive book, there is also a good story here about the citizens of Coketown, many with the wonderfully descriptive names that Dickens bestows upon his characters. Being a shorter book kept the focus on moving the story along and, rather than pages of description or long winded asides, the prose was stylish and clever. As a fan of Dickens, I enjoyed both the fine writing and the sharp social criticism that one comes to expect of this author. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Aug 2, 2018 |
I didn’t like this tale of education gone wrong. Dickens’ essential humor is missing; the caricatures fall rather flat, exceptfor Mrs. Sparsit. There’s no situational humor at all.
Dickens is much more heavy-handed than usual in his moralizing, and the characters are one-dimensional cut-outs.
Typically I love Dickens, but not this time. I can’t recommend this one. ( )
  bohemima | Jul 20, 2018 |
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» 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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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)

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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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