Hard times

by Charles Dickens

Paper Book, 1964


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)



Call number



Toronto ; London : Bantam, 1964

Media reviews

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
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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.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Aw, guys, don't pick on Dickens. (And you BEST not be dickin on Pickens.) This is a great-hearted novel, that reminds us just to be kind to one another first of all, and fight the injustice we can see. And sure, Dickens is a bleeding-heart liberal, and sure, it's unforgivable the way he represents
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the union movement, via Slackbridge, as venal and exploitative. But the accomplishments of the unions in the 19th and 20th centuries (I miss solidarity), much as they wouldn't have come about without that good strong ethic of martial socialism, also wouldn't have come about if they hadn't endeavoured in a world made ready for them by debatechangers like Boz. You need both sides. And sure, yes, there's also the argument that that kind of liberalism undermines the potential for real change; but tell that to all the people who suffered a little bit less after the Poor Laws were repealed. You need both sides.

And like how we forgive Atticus Finch for not challenging Jim Crow, a current reading can easily enough put its hand over its heart and salute the good in Dickens for making a stand, without buying in completely--certainly we'll ignore his "let them eat Christianity" for the poor at every opportunity, his failure to really challenge class privilege--we'll read against him, and recognize with a righteous anger the way that class influences the fates, respectively, of Harthouse, Tom Gradgrind, and Stephen Blackpool. And acknowledge the truth of the representation.

My sister says that university students pick on Dickens because of that thing where you hate what you are--and what do they do but talk about the oppressed from a position of privilege? Dickens is of course guilty as charged on that score, Marx himself also gave him credit for making caring respectable for the self-interested middle classes. And Hard Times was his major salvo.

He fought the injustice he could see. Better champagne socialism than no socialism at all.
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LibraryThing member kambrogi
The story begins with Thomas Gradgrind, an educator raising his children on “facts, facts, facts,” to the exclusion of creativity and imagination. The book follows his children as they grow and enter the world, and all the diverse individuals who feel the touch of his philosophy: those who
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embrace it and those who chafe at the bit. It is clear that Dickens condemns this point of view, although not Mr. Gradgrind himself, who exhibits the three-dimensional complexity of Dickens’ best characters. The book is part melodrama, part satire, and especially an indictment of the worst aspects of 19th century England’s industrial practices and social mores. The sense of moral outrage is powerful, and inspirational in the reading. But what rises above it all is his characters – still living and breathing more than 150 years after they were created.
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LibraryThing member Michael_Medley
Dickens feels the important connection between utilitarian fact-processing and inhumane capitalism, and tries to dramatize it. But it is an interesting attempt rather than a successful project. His final message is merely a plea to keep open the channels of imagination as a softening and adornment
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of harsh realities. Characters and plot are awkwardly contrived, though strong enough to keep me turning the pages.
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LibraryThing member pgchuis
This read as though Dickens had a number of points he wanted to make (the dangers of education based on fact, to the exclusion of imagination and religion; the dangers of unionization, even though clearly something ought to be done about poor working conditions; the difficulties the poor have in
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obtaining a divorce etc) and set out to create a novel around them.

Louisa was not a developed enough character to carry the story and (as the introduction to my edition points out) there is no hero. The scene where Mr Bounderby is confronted by his mother and revealed to be a complete fraud in his Monty Pythonesque tales of the poverty of his early years is fantastic and the bank robbery plot is mildly interesting. I also enjoyed Mrs Sparsit, and Bitzer kept me guessing.

But... Mr Slearly's lisp made the sections he appeared in almost unreadable and Stephen's accent made it hard work getting through his speeches. I did feel that poor Stephen deserved a happy ending, but sadly it was not to be. The chapter where Louisa confronts her father and he, she and Sissy get all emotional together was rather over the top for modern tastes, but presumably played well to a Victorian readership. I was outraged that the Gradgrinds thought Tom deserved to avoid justice. Why did Dickens write this? Did he think the middle class deserved to escape the consequences of their criminal actions? Was it just an excuse to reintroduce the circus again at the end? I had no sense at all of the internal workings of the Bounderby marriage during the year or so it lasted. Did they have sex? Did they ever speak together in private? What did they talk about? Did Louisa hope to have baby?

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LibraryThing member Esquilinho
Be in all things regulated and governed by fact...: Always concerned with issues of class, social injustice, and employment, Dickens shows in Hard Times, written in 1854, a broader concern with the philosophies and economic movements which underlie those issues. Three parallel story lines reflect a
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broad cross-section of society and its thinking. Mr. Thomas Gradgrind runs a school founded upon the principles of rationalism, a belief in the importance of facts, the antithesis of romantic "fancy" and imagination. Basically a good man, he denies the importance of emotion--for himself, his children, and his students. Only Student #20, Sissy Jupe, the daughter of a circus clown, fails to conform to his notions, and in a hilarious, satiric scene at the beginning of the novel, Dickens shows the absurdity of Gradgrind's teachings.
Gradgrind's friend, Mr. Bounderby, is a banker and factory owner, aged fifty, who claims to have risen from the gutter to his present lofty position through hard work. Bounderby treats the employees of his Coketown factory as machines, rather than as humans, and his eventual marriage to the teenaged Louisa Gradgrind is seen by both as a marriage of "tangible fact," having nothing to do with affection.
The third story line involves Stephen Blackpool, a worker in Bounderby's factory, trapped in a marriage to an alcoholic who periodically appears and extorts money from him. Stephen is in love with Rachael, an adoring factory worker, but his appeal to Bounderby for help in ending his marriage is met with cold, rational pronouncements. Shortly after, Bounderby fires Stephen "for a novelty," forcing him to leave Rachael and seek employment elsewhere.
As the story lines overlap and intersect, often with consummate irony, Dickens keeps a light enough hand to prevent the story from becoming a polemic, though his criticism of hypocrisy, corruption, and "progress" at the expense of humanity is clear. His humor, often dark, keeps the plot moving, and several of his characters, which are often caricatures, do grow and change. Characteristically, Dickens uses names symbolically-Gradgrind grinds the emotions from his graduates, hires Mr. M'Choakumchild as a teacher, and lives at Stone Lodge. Mr. Bounderby proves to be a bounder. Some of the circus performers, like Sissy, live at Pegasus Arms.
The dramatic conclusion, which involves the pursuit of an innocent character widely believed to have committed a robbery, draws all the themes together, showing the parallels, contrasts, and ironies which connect these characters, regardless of their social level. Less epic in plot than some of Dickens's other novels, Hard Times provides an intimate look at a changing economy and an important commentary on the philosophies of the times.
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LibraryThing member JeroenBerndsen
Though not completely a Dickens fan, Hard Times is an impressive political satire with humour. One of Dickens' less depressive novels.

Coketown is dominated by the figure of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school headmaster and model of Utilitarian success. Feeding both his pupils and family with facts, he
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bans fancy and wonder from any young minds. As a consequence, his obedient daughter Louisa marries the loveless businessman and 'bully of humanity' Mr Bounderby, and his son Tom rebels to become embroiled in gambling and robbery. And, as their fortunes cross with those of free-spirited circus girl Sissy Jupe and victimized weaver Stephen Blackpool, Gradgrind is eventually forced to recognize the value of the human heart in an age of materialism and machinery.
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LibraryThing member infjsarah
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.
LibraryThing member Kristelh
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Matke
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.
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Typically I love Dickens, but not this time. I can’t recommend this one.
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LibraryThing member Powderfinger69
The message of Hard Times rings very true today. "...that there i[s] a love in the world, not all [S]elf-intere[s]t after all, but [s]omething very different...." However, this was by far the most difficult Dickens read that I can remember. Reading the sections where his satire of the Utilitarians
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is at its thickest at times feels like walking through quicksand in order to follow the plot. The story is simple and you cannot miss his point, but everything slogs.
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LibraryThing member Bridgey
Hard Times - Charles Dickens ***

Dickens has always been one of those authors that I have to force myself to pick up, but usually once I make a committed effort I really do enjoy his books. I know it is going to be hard work, but usually the reward when I finish the novel justifies the means. Over
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the years I have read half a dozen or so of his works, and pretty much found them to my liking. Hard Times is one of his lesser known novels and one that I was totally unfamiliar with so I had no idea what to expect.

So what is it about? Set in the fictional area of Coketown (allegedly based on Preston) we follow the lives of the inhabitants. The poor working and their tribulations, and the rich who have strong ideals on how the rest of society should act. All are trapped within the industrial revolution, but obviously some fare from it better than others. As usual with Dickens we see things from both sides of the spectrum. The wealthy side being Mr Gradgrind and Mr Bounder, a pair of gentlemen that only deal with facts and not emotions and believed these virtues should be instilled on the rest of society. The impoverished side encompasses Stephen Blackpool, a hard working man that has fallen upon hard times and cannot see a way out unless he is treated as an equal with those more fortunate. Throw into the mix a few dodgy dealings by Tom Gradgrind (Mr Gradgrind’s eldest son) and you have the outline of the book. Although even after sitting down and reading the damn thing I still struggled to describe it.

What did I like? I suppose the descriptions of the town and working conditions were pretty spot on and gave a vivid impression of the times. I also liked some of the characters, Dickens always has a way of making them stand out with their own personalities so that you can almost feel what they are thinking.

What didn’t I like? Most if it if I am truthfully honest. The story dragged on and on and on, I never really felt as if it was going anywhere in particular. Some of the parts were almost forgotten about (such as the married life of Mr Bounderby & Louisa) and the reader is just left wondering especially as these events were such an integral part of the early plotlines. I can read most things and battle through, but the literary device of writing peoples speech in dialect is one of my peeves, it makes it even worse in Hard Times as one of the characters, Mr Sleary, also speaks with a lisp. I found myself having to reread whole chapters just to try and decipher what was being said, whilst other people’s speech reflects a sort of dodgy Northern accent, some people may find it adds to the authenticity I just find it bloody annoying. In reality I think this book was written as a way of Dickens getting something off his chest. It could almost be described as one long rant from beginning to end, and there is nothing wrong with that, but at least make it interesting. At times it really did just bore me to tears and I was tempted to just Google the ending and save myself some time, but I did stick it out even though the 300 pages seemed more like a few thousand. Not one of his books I will ever revisit or recommend.
A fair 3 stars, I couldn’t give it more for obvious reasons, and to be fair I don’t think Dickens could ever deserve less, even if the book wasn’t to my own personal taste.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member JalenV
The most depressing thing about Charles Dickens' Hard Times is how little has changed about the attitude of the rich for the working class even though it's getting closer to two centuries since it was first published.

Some of the revelations were no surprise, but that didn't matter. My favorite
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parts were when Thomas Gradgrind, Senior, discovered the results his teaching of nothing but facts have had on two of his pupils.

There are plenty of reasons to become outraged on characters' behalf and several characters well worth detesting.

Mr. Tull's narration was good.
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LibraryThing member kswolff
Yuck! Soot, coal, suffering. Rinse, lather, repeat. Even by the standards of Dickens' classic sentimentality for the underdog, this novel is a dud. Probably not the best introduction to Charles Dickens unless you want your child to enjoy the pleasures of never reading again. This novel makes Zola's
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"Germinal," also about downtrodden coal miners, seem like a work of candy-colored upbeat positivity.
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LibraryThing member intromit
I loved many of Dickens' other works - "Great Expectations" and "A Tale of Two Cities" are excellent - but "Hard Times" is an awful read. I found it to be pretentious. It is currently sitting on my self with a book mark about three-quarters of the way through it. I won't finish it.
LibraryThing member fuzzy_patters
Thomas Gradgrind believes in a system of education in which children should be filled with facts and only facts. There is no room for sentiment or imagination. He runs a school that operates in this fashion, and he has raised his children the same way. Since there is no room for sentiment or love
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in her life, Tom sees know problem with sending his daughter Louisa to marry Bounderby, a cold businessman who is obsessed with the myth that he has pulled himself up from poverty. Likewise, Gradgrind's son, Tom, goes to work for Bounderby in the bank he owns, and Bounderby respects that young Tom is as cold and fact-based as Bounderby and the elder Gradgrind. Meanwhile, someone robs the bank, and Bounderby is obsessed with bringing the robber to justice.

In typical Dickens fashion, many of the characters in this novel exist at extremes, such as Bounderby who cares only about money and facts. This provided Dickens with an opportunity to prove points about the ills that he saw in nineteenth century English society, and it also provides him opportunities for comedic opportunities to poke fun at his characters. While I found the former to to ham-fisted at times, the latter was quite comical and gave the novel a lot of charm.

As a teacher myself, I thought the best part of the book was Dickens's point about the folly of an education that stresses facts and only facts. In our modern era of standards based education as in his time, this approach fosters students who are cold, uncaring, and uncreative. Dickens deftly shows us possible results of producing this kind of student by showing us situations in which his characters flaws lead to tragedy and inhumanity.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
Dickens' 10th full length novel and far from his best. Essentially a polemic against harsh employers, early unions and the unhealthy dirt of newly industrialised cities, the book seems to miss most targets. The main characters seem even more one dimensional than usual - Gradgrind is a a great name
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for the grinding teacher, but as a character, he fails to be believable. His daughter, Louise, marries the mill owner Bounderby (another great name, but equally a failure as a character) and their marriage forms one of the central themes. In my Dickens marathon over the last 6 months or so, I am yet to find a normal, happy, productive marriage. Louise's marriage is worse than most depicted by Dickens, loveless and unequal, but I find it telling that there are NO normal marriages in such an extensive body of fiction. Read May 2012.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
Charles Dickens was born 200 years ago this month. To celebrate many BookCrossers decided to read one of his works in February. I decided to listen to this book. I had never heard of it before but I figured I couldn't go too far wrong with anything by Dickens. I especially like listening to his
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work as the descriptive language really builds a picture in my mind.

This book is unusual in comparison to most of Dickens' work. For one thing, it is set in the north of England and, other than one of the characters being a member of Parliament, no-one bothers with London. It is also quite a bit shorter than most of his novels but you shouldn't think it doesn't have depths. The setting is an industrial town that sounds frankly awful. Smoke stacks spew into the air all day and all night so there is never an unobscured view of the sky. All the houses and buildings are red brick with no decoration. To go with the surroundings the local school teaches only the facts and discourages children from "wondering" about anything. One of the eminent families is the Gradgrinds and Mr. Gradgrind is a trustee of the school. The book opens with the children being quizzed. Sissy, daughter of a man employed in the circus, is asked to describe a horse but she can't do it to the satisfaction of the questioners. She can't give just the facts. Bitzer, one of the star pupils, is able to give a complete description sticking only to the facts and Sissy is recommended to follow his example.

The Gradgrind children, Louisa and Tom, are also pupils of the school and their father is very proud of their learning. Louisa ends up married to one of her father's friends, Mr. Bounderby, mainly because she is unable to think of any other possibilty. She also is prodded into the marriage by Tom who is working in Mr. Bounderby's bank and thinks his life will be much easier if Louisa is married to Bounderby. Tom is a wastrel, given to gambling and drinking.

Dickens brings the working class into the story through the introduction of Stephen Blackpool. Stephen is in love with Rachel but is married to a woman who is a drunkard. Stephen tries to find out from Bounderby if he can dissolve his marriage but is told that he couldn't afford to get an annulment.

These main characters interact and Dickens shows how unsatisfactory utilitarianism is for most humans. The book is more tragic than other Dickens that I have read but I suspect that was his aim. There are some wonderful characterizations and Louisa, Rachel and Sissy are strong characters.
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LibraryThing member gbill
Hard Times might be said to be Dickens' reaction to:

- Utilitarianism, the concept pushed by John Stuart Mill and others for "the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people." While the statement ostensibly sounds reasonable, Dickens was concerned that those not in the "greatest
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number" would suffer great pain, as he and so many others had in the Industrial Revolution.

- Education of children focused on hard facts and dry pragmatism, stifling imagination and higher pursuits, such that they could become better workers in a society geared too much towards capitalism.

- Man's inhumanity to man in materialistic Victorian England.

These social criticisms are all intertwined, and of course are themes in many of Dickens' other works. Hard Times is concentrated; severe space limitations cut the book to about 1/3 his previous four novels, and the result is a focus that some enjoy and others don't. It's not his best but worth a read.
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LibraryThing member readingwithtea
I hope not all Dickens is like this. If it is, this is going to be a long project, as I keep reading anything other than the next one!

The tale of the Gradgrinds – father, a schoolmaster with a very rigid idea of how children ought to be raised, free of fancy and full of “ologisms”, a mother
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racked with nerves, a daughter Louisa, who comes to doubt the prosaic quality of her life, Thomas, a lost and petulant gambler, and the adopted daughter Sissy Jupe, whose father abandoned her to their circus colleagues and who was subsequently taken in by the Gradgrind family – had some semblance of a plot, but not much of one.

The majority of page-space was occupied with long and convoluted character descriptions, often highly entertaining, but all the book’s characters are caricatures. Dickens gives us too many opportunities to mock, and the humour rapidly wears thin. One might say that this is a book of redemption – all characters have come to see the error of their ways by the end – but the constant cynicism and ridicule leaves a bitter taste. There was also a superfluity of allusions to contemporary matters, which meant I spent the first twenty pages leaving back and forth to the notes and then giving up, after which I clearly missed at least a third of the jokes.

Please let not all Dickens be like this.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Kaydence
Hard Times gives both sides of the story and shows how neither side is actually as happy as they would hope to be, however, I’d like to just talk about the poor.

The lower class is represented by a factory worker that happens to be married to a woman he doesn’t want to come home to. She has
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taken to drinking because of her poor life. In this case, she is gone much of the time. He has attempted to help her, but he would rather be rid of her. He asks for help, but is told that he should just live with his decisions because only the rich can get a divorce. At work, he eventually becomes an outcaste because he does not want to join the union. Then he loses his job because he refuses to be a spy. To make matters worse, he is offered help only to find out that he is being set up as a suspect for a future bank robbery. He ends up dying after falling in a well when coming back to clear his good name. This basically states that everything possible can go wrong with the lower class. He cannot be with the one he loves, he can’t fix any of his situations, and then he dies when he is attempting to at least save his reputation.
In Hard Times, Louisa does not go to the working class neighborhoods until she goes to see Stephen after he is fired. At the same time, the working class seemed to feel like they were meant for their position. Stephen is worn out, but he states that he understands his place and accepts it. The critical readings also seem to state that people accept their positions in life because of a social commitment to one another.Dickens describes Coketown as if it is a place made out of brick. Everything is square and nondescript. The school house at the beginning of the book is a square building, the Grandagrind house is a square building, and the bank is as well. There are descriptions of the smoke billowing up from the factories, but the majority of the descriptions are related to fire. Flames are used throughout the story when Louisa and Stephen are mentioned. These flames are throughout each household, but also in relation to the factories. Louisa states something about the factories becoming flames at night.Dickens' focuses more on how the environment represents emotions within the characters and Engel focuses on the social disparities between the rich and the poor. I think that they are basically describing the same thing, but they have different motivations and that effects how everything is discussed. Engel wanted to directly point out a factual portrait to change politics and economics. So, he focused directly upon the conditions of the working class. Dickens’ was not giving a factual representation, but hoping to evoke sentimentality and awareness through his story. This was more blatant than his other stories, but he still is very interested in the development of his characters, and not just a description of the scene.
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LibraryThing member ostrom
The opening chapter is to die for.
LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Not one of Dickens's better known novels but seething with his customary descriptive powers, and even more social comment than usual.
The novel is set in Coketown, a fictional city in the North of England renowned for its mills and factories. The novel opens with headmaster Thomas Gradgrind
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introducing prospective new clients to his school with a speech reminiscent of current Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb, and stressing the importance of facts over sentiment or imagination. Even his own children are subjected to an education in which curiosity is suppressed and learning facts by rote is the only permissible approach.
Gradgrind's closest companion is the odious Josiah Bounderby, a self-made man who is never happier than when extolling the poverty of his childhood and traducing the mother who abandoned him in a ditch when merely an infant. He revels in the poverty of his upbringing and the absence of his own education, and champion's Gradgrind's factual crusade. He also dotes in the most gruesome manner over Louisa, eldest daughter of Gradgrind, and subsequently, following discussions with Mr Gradgrind that more closely resembled a business negotiation than a lover's suit, marries her. Her brother, also called Thomas, comes to work for Bounderby, taking on a role in the bank, though he succumbs to a dangerous addiction to gambling and drinking.
Bounderby is owner of a bank and a mill in Coketown, and his employees are almost shackled, dependent upon the pittance he pays them. However, while most of the workers seem anonymous, one of them is Stephen Blackpool, who loves Rachael, but is married to an unnamed and itinerant alcoholic woman Blackpool refuses to join a trade union, and as a consequence he is sent to Coventry by his colleagues. However, rather than being supported by Bounderby he finds himself given notice to quit. Pledging always to stay true to Rachael he makes his arrangements to leave.
And then someone robs the bank ...

Like all of his more famous novels there is a heavy dose of almost cliched sentiment about this novel, but Dickens does bring his incisive social commentary into play. He attacks every aspect of the workers' thraldom - the paucity of their wages, the conditions in which they have to work, the rampant pollution of the mills, the desperate poverty of available accommodation. Yet despite all this, it is not just a political diatribe but remains enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member belgrade18
Not one of Dickens' best, though Dickens is still one of the best writers of the 19th century, even when he was writing as a hack. It was made more interesting a read in this day and age of Tea Partiers and puritanical Evangelicals who hate the thought of paying taxes for the public good, it
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reminded me that these things are cyclical. A quick read, though, so if you've got it in front of you, give it a shot.
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