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Hard Times (1854)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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10,705131683 (3.54)481
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

First published in 1854, Hard Times is a profoundly moving, articulate and searing indictment of the life-reducing effects of the industrial revolution, and certain aspects of enlightenment thinking. Set in the fictional midlands mill-town of Coketown, the narrative centers on the industrialist, Mr Thomas Gradgrind, whose belief in scientific utilitarianism skews his world view and is a motive force, carrying the narrative towards farce and tragedy.

Gradgrind's no-nonsense abhorrence of 'fancy' extends to his implementing an ambitious education scheme that aims to exclude all 'nonsense' and keep the minds of young people focused squarely on facts.

The book is ultimately an argument in favor of fancy and radical thinking, and a damning critique of industrial capitalism and its exploitation and repression of the workers whose lives were spent (literally) in sustaining the system.

.
… (more)
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    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 (120)  Spanish (6)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
Moral of the story - Sometimes there is no happily ever after.

Favourite characters - Rachael, Sissy Jupe, Jane Gradgrind
Least Favourite character - Mr Bounderby
Favourite character's name - Mr McChoakumchild ( )
  ChariseH | May 25, 2024 |
I studied "Hard Times" for O level so a revisit by audio was always going to be interesting. It's also short - which is a bonus. I was surprised by how little I remembered. I remembered some of the characters but the plot had disappeared completely. It was OK - not the best nor the worst Dickens. ( )
1 vote infjsarah | Apr 24, 2024 |
People who brush aside Dickens because they think it's all going to be old, overhyped, crusty stories are missing out BIG TIME. Dickens is truly hilarious, and that wit paired with dynamic characters and multilayered tales make for positively riveting reading. I was laughing out loud throughout this book, like when Mrs. Sparsit calls Bounderby a "Noodle" behind his back, or when the robbery occurs but serious talk about it keeps getting derailed because no one can stay on topic and instead they start talking about snoring and such.
There were a couple tricky bits to get through, primarily just reading the phonetically written dialogue of Blackpool and Rachael. But I just looked at a quick Shmoop summary for those couple chapters and then read them again and that helped me immensely.
Everything else was just really REALLY good! I'm someone who enjoys recurring motifs and themes that can be picked out directly, and Dickens does an excellent job of presenting these to the reader without shoving it down their throat. In "Hard Times" Dickens presents a look at imagination and emotions VS a very factual, no-nonsense attitude, all set against the industrial city of Coketown. It's a very well-paced and put together novel, and I enjoyed it thoroughly! ( )
  deborahee | Feb 23, 2024 |
This is a proud moment. The moment in which I announce the conquering of one of my biggest literary-related fears. The finishing of a full-length Charles Dickens novel. Of course, I've read A Christmas Carol over and over---but that doesn't really count. It doesn't count because, for one thing, it's a novella. Secondly, everyone, everyone, knows the story. It's easy to read A Christmas Carol because you can fill in the hard stuff with visions of Mickey Mouse and Jiminy Cricket, if you really need to.

But Hard Times! Oh, the joy! (...and, Oh! The oxymoron!) It was just the right level of difficult for me. My knowledge of vocabulary was challenged, but I understood it all in context enough to laugh, smile, sigh, and nod my way through the whole wonderful book. I don't know why I've been so afraid to tackle 19th century classics. Every time I read one, I thoroughly enjoy it and come away feeling fulfilled and that I've spent my reading time wisely.

Book Description: "Set amid smokestacks and factories, Charles Dickens's Hard Times is a blistering portrait of Victorian England as it struggles with the massive economic turmoil brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Championing the mind-numbing materialism of the period is Thomas Gradgrind, one of Dickens's most vivid characters. He opens the novel by arguing that boys and girls should be taught 'nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.' Forbidding the development of imagination, Gradgrind is ultimately forced to confront the results of his philosophy--his own daughter's terrible unhappiness. Full of suspense, humor, and tenderness, Hard Times is a brilliant defense of art in an age of mechanism."

My Thoughts: There is so much to enjoy about this book that I do find it difficult to really put it all into an orderly review. I was surprised by the many elements of mystery, romance--even a bit of edge-of-your-seat action at the end! I do wish some of the characters would have ended up with happier endings. I found that many of Grandgrind's "facts" were truths of his own making and it caused me to reconsider some of the things in my own life that I would consider "facts". I also chuckled, a lot, at the revelation of Bounderby's "origins".

The "unwanted wife" trope, reminiscent of both Jane Eyre and Silas Marner, was interesting to see. I like to think that Dickens was riffing off Bronte's work of seven years earlier and that Eliot, in turn, was inspired to include the theme in her work, seven years later.

I liked the idea that both Sissy and Stephen's wife were making big impacts on the characters without actually being present in the story. Stephen's wife, especially, was a major player---yet her time in the novel takes up but a few sentences. If it weren't for her though, many of the characters' lives would have taken entirely different directions.

A couple of my favorite quotes were:

"If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!"

Also, Dickens's fun play on Peter Piper: "If the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at more than this, what was it for good gracious goodness' sake, that the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at?" ( )
  classyhomemaker | Dec 11, 2023 |
I was had never heard anything about this book before. Thomas Gradgrind, a "fanatic of the demonstrable fact," who raises his children, Tom and Louisa. The extreme reliance on facts means you should not have flowers on your carpet, after all you don't walk on flowers.There is old woman who seems interested in Bounderby and says she visits Coketown once a year. At a crowded union meeting, the agitator Slackbridge accuses Stephen Blackpool of treachery because he will not join the union, and Stephen learns he is to be 'sent to Coventry' becoming an outsider. Mr. Gradgrind sees his daughter as his great success in being raised in his method. But there are disastrous consequences to his teachings. ( )
  nx74defiant | Oct 13, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (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 (74 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
Grant, Richard E.Narratorsecondary 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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INSCRIBED TO THOMAS CARLYLE
First words
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)
Quotations
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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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

First published in 1854, Hard Times is a profoundly moving, articulate and searing indictment of the life-reducing effects of the industrial revolution, and certain aspects of enlightenment thinking. Set in the fictional midlands mill-town of Coketown, the narrative centers on the industrialist, Mr Thomas Gradgrind, whose belief in scientific utilitarianism skews his world view and is a motive force, carrying the narrative towards farce and tragedy.

Gradgrind's no-nonsense abhorrence of 'fancy' extends to his implementing an ambitious education scheme that aims to exclude all 'nonsense' and keep the minds of young people focused squarely on facts.

The book is ultimately an argument in favor of fancy and radical thinking, and a damning critique of industrial capitalism and its exploitation and repression of the workers whose lives were spent (literally) in sustaining the system.

.

No library descriptions found.

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

Της ΣΤΑΥΡΟΥΛΑΣ ΠΑΠΑΣΠΥΡΟΥ


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.
gre
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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