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Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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10,557133595 (3.51)464
This story of class conflict in Victorian England serves as a powerful critique of the social injustices that plagued the Industrial Revolution. THIS ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES: A concise introduction that gives the reader important background information A chronology of the author's life and work A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context An outline of key themes and plot points to guide the reader's own interpretations Detailed explanatory notes Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience… (more)
  1. 10
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Cecrow)
  2. 00
    Nice Work by David Lodge (KayCliff)
  3. 00
    The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (TimForrest65)
  4. 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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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 | May 1, 2023 |
I read this as part of the Open University Arts Foundation Course ( )
  Susan-Pearson | Feb 23, 2023 |
Yes, a classic. ( )
  sfj2 | Dec 13, 2022 |
Dickens seems to have been tired at the time he wrote this. It was not up to the usual detail that he put into his books. This is about a father who runs a school in a town in England called Coketown. It's a town dominated by a look factory that pollutes the air and the river and the humans and Animals who are part of the town. The father believes that imagination, and fantasies, daydreaming, the arts, have no valid place in a child's learning. Thus it is that his own children are treated to this standard and grow up to be unhappy as a result.
It starts out with an Italian traveling circus in the town, and the daughter of one of the clowns has been abandoned by her father, who is sick and doesn't have the health to make people laugh anymore. Sissy Jupe, as she is called, is taken home by Mr Gradgrind, the headmaster, and given the job of looking after his wife, the hypochondriac. Sissy is actually the most interesting character, imo, yet very little time is spent detailing her life after going to live with the Gradgrinds.
Yea, disappointing Dickens work. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
At the outset of this novel, we know that Dickens is going to pit reason against emotion, fact against feeling, and that reason and fact are going to come up short. In a world without sympathy, compassion or warmth, Louisa and Tom Gradgrind are raised. They have everything they might want in terms of money and position, but nothing else; their contrast is Sissy Jupe, a circus child who has the love of both her father and the circus family, but is steeped in poverty.

In true Dickens style, there are several side stories, one of which is the star-crossed love story of Rachael and Stephen, a sweet and dedicated pair, who bear their misfortunes with grace and acceptance. Theirs is unselfish love, which contrasts sharply with the love of Louisa for her brother, Tom, and his selfish abuse of her love for his own gain, and the loveless and unnatural marriage of Louisa with her father’s friend, Bounderby.

As always, Dickens tackles the evils of the day with some humor, in the person of Mr. Sleary, and a taste of villainy, in the form of Mrs. Sparsit. He addresses the rise of unions, and in a world where such ideas were radical, he paints them in a more favorable light than might be expected. But, most effectively, he tackles the educational system that puts everything above the individual child. While Gradgrind is not a cruel man, like Mr. Squeers who runs the school in Nicholas Nickleby, he is just as misguided and damaging to his charges. Bitzer, a minor character who serves an important part in the plot, emerges as a perfect example of the kind of empty shell that can be made of a child who is given nothing to draw on but self-interest.

I did not enjoy Hard Times as much as I have enjoyed other Dickens novels, but I did find it a worthwhile read and as always, there are characters here that will be long remembered. My next Dickens will be Little Dorrit, and I have heard that it is among his best efforts.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
Whimsy, imagination, and sentiment have been banned in the Gradgrinds' upper-class household, but in Coketown, whose working class inhabitants fight for their very survival, the ban becomes a merciless creed. There, all that matters are the grinding wheels of production. Hard Times reflects a harsh world of grueling labor and pitiless relationships. But it is also a story of hope, of something elemental in the human spirit that rises above its bleak surroundings.

» Add other authors (77 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dickens, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brereton, FrederickIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Charles KeepingIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chesterton, G.K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fildes, LukeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foot, DingleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greiffenhagen, MauriceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odden, KarenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richardson, JoannaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sève, Peter deCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shapiro, CharlesAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sothoron, Karen HenricksonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, FrederickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, MeganCover designersecondary 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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This story of class conflict in Victorian England serves as a powerful critique of the social injustices that plagued the Industrial Revolution. THIS ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES: A concise introduction that gives the reader important background information A chronology of the author's life and work A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context An outline of key themes and plot points to guide the reader's own interpretations Detailed explanatory notes Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience

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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
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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