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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

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Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
This was my first Dickens' novel, admittedly my choice as it is considerably shorter than any of his other major works. There were sections I found very entertaining- his reputation for conveying humor and biting social commentary is well earned. That said, I didn't find the actual story line particularly compelling and would have preferred more emphasis on fewer characters. All in all, an enjoyable but not outstanding book. ( )
  la2bkk | Mar 21, 2014 |
The characters in this novel are the flat, single-minded, exaggerated characters that could be found in today's soap operas. While I'm not a fan of this style of the grotesque, nor of the reprimanding narrator, it's not all bad and can be quite amusing at times.
  Frenzie | Feb 19, 2014 |
Hard Times is Charles Dickens shortest work at 277 pages and is unlike his other novels because it is set in a fictional city called Coketown, an industrial city with its pollution and social disparities. The book features trade unions and the divide between capitalism and labor. The book is structured as three parts, Sowing, Reaping and Garnering based on the Bible verse, “as a man sows, so shall he reap” and on The Book Of Ruth who garners what is left in the field after the reaping is done. The characters are Professor Gradgrind who worships “facts” and raises his daughter and son only on facts and no love or pleasure. He places his son Tom in service with Mr. Bounderby, a braggart and lier. He also marries his daughter to this older man. Mr Gradgrind takes in a child of the circus, Sissy Jupe to try to educate her after her father leaves without notice. And finally Stephen Blackpool, a noble man, shunned by his own class, poorly treated by Bounderby and finally accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The book is an indictment of utilitarian philosophy. This is a fast read for a Dickens book. I enjoyed the story and the characters were fun. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Certainly my favorite of Dickens's works, and I think his best rendering of the impact of industrialism on both urban and suburban British society in the 19th century. Beautifully drawn, it's easy to see the lineage through to Orwell's works in Down and Out and Wigan Peir. ( )
  50MinuteMermaid | Nov 14, 2013 |
I was assigned Hard Times in high school, and actually remembered it as one of the few works by Dickens I had enjoyed. Rereading it, I did still enjoy it on the whole, but I still found in it so many of the qualities that put me off in Dickens--although often they're closely associated with qualities I do like.

What I do like is the humor. Dickens can be witty and sharp, and this satire of utilitarianism comes off in bright primary colors, and his distaste for the Industrial Revolution and Industrialists and members of Unions alike in sooty black. Yet in terms of this picture of the Industrial North of England I couldn't help contrasting it in my mind--unfavorably--to Gaskell's North and South. There are ways in which I do find Dickens the superior writer. He had the humor I remember lacking from Gaskell and goodness, Dickens can turn a memorable phrase. But Gaskell's is a much more nuanced portrait of the Industrial Revolution. She shows its dark side--she can't be accused, unlike Dickens' character Bounderby, of trying to claim the smoky, grimy air is good for your health! Or that factory work is "light" and "pleasant." But Gaskell also shows the dynamism of the new forces at work that empowered workers compared to what had come before or to the more agricultural, class-bound South.

Dickens' industrialist Bounderby is no more than a caricature--Gaskell's industrialist Thornton is a rounded figure, with virtues and flaws and a point of view that doesn't represent a straw man. On the other side of the class divide, Gaskell's workingman Nicholas Higgins to me represents a much stronger figure than either Slackbridge or the sentimentalized Blackwell in Hard Times. And I hate how Dickens represents the speech of the working class, though he's hardly alone in that in his era or ours. But it was a trial trying to make out Blackwell's speech: "I ha' hed what's been spok'n o' me, and tis' lickly that I shan't mend it." It's not as if educated speakers of English don't drop sounds. How would you pronounce "thought?" But it's not as if Dickens resorts to that kind of phonetic spelling above for upper class characters. Those caricatures, over-the-top characterizations and the hectoring polemics extend even to one of Dickens' most notable characteristics--the use of character names as tags for one-sided qualities--even if I do have to smile at names such as "Gradgrind" or "Bounderby" or "Harthouse."

If my rating doesn't fall below a three (and I didn't hesitate to give A Tale of Two Cities lower) it's because, reading Blackwell's dialogue aside, this is so very readable. So much of this book is very, very quotable. I also found Louisa Bounderby an interesting character. She's a much less pallid character than I usually see in Dicken's women characters--including the others within this book not out and out caricatures like Mrs Sparsit. Louisa's a kind of anti-Emma Bovary. If Flaubert's title heroine was a female Don Quixote, driven to destruction by too much fanciful reading, then Louisa is the other side of the spectrum--one made emotionally arid by strangling all imagination and playfulness out of her from an early age to suit her father's utilitarian principles. And at least in this novel I can't accuse Dickens of being verbose--this one is less than 300 pages. Worth reading, despite my reservations. ( )
3 vote LisaMaria_C | Aug 29, 2013 |
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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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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.
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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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Twelve editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Three editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014143967X, 0141198346, 0141199563

Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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