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Hard Times Paperback – Aug 22 2001
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7-12-Dickens' satire on the Victorian family and the philosophies of a society which sought to turn men into machines.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
David Timson reads Dickens's last complete novel with a sense of fun. As always, Dickens creates a fabulous array of characters: the nouveau riche Veneerings, the dwarf who makes doll clothes, the bizarre schoolmaster, and the abysmally poor who trawl the Thames for bodies or daily sift the dust and dirt of Victorian England for a skimpy living. Timson's dramatic talents add dimension to each personality-just the sort of acting that makes an audio experience so satisfying. Naxos has done a fine job of abridging the book (Timson also reads the unabridged version on 28 CDs). Not much is lost in terms of plot and characterization, and Dickens's great satiric and social themes come through clearly: the plight and misery of the poor and the greed and heartless stupidity of the rich. If the abridgment seems a bit disjointed, it simply follows the novel's narrative style. This is a wonderful listen for Dickens fans and novices alike. - Pulbisher's Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The setting is Coketown, a factory town befouled by industrial smog and populated by underpaid and undereducated laborers. The novel's most prominent character is one of the town's richest citizens, Josiah Bounderby, a pompous blowhard who owns a textile mill and a bank and whose conversation usually includes some boastful story about his impoverished childhood and the hard work that led to his present fortune.
Bounderby is the commercial projection of Thomas Gradgrind, a local schoolteacher and an extraordinarily pragmatic man who instills in his students and his own children the importance of memorizing facts and figures and the iniquity of indulging in entertaining activities. Gradgrind offers to Bounderby his son, Tom Jr., as an unwilling apprentice, and his daughter, Louisa, as an unwilling bride.
On the other end of the town's social scale is Stephen Blackpool, a simple, downcast man who works as a weaver at Bounderby's mill and slogs through life misunderstood and mistreated. When he refuses to join his fellow workers in a labor uprising, he is ostracized; when he criticizes the economic disparity between Bounderby and the workers, he is fired and forced to leave town; when Bounderby's bank is robbed one night, he is suspected as the thief. So halfway through the novel, Dickens grants his reader an interesting, albeit somewhat contrived, plot element to embellish the narrative.Read more ›
It is well known that Dickens was a chronicler of his times, and his mode of expression, the novel. An intensely emotional individual, Dickens was known to be a power walker, starting in the afternoon, covering miles, to return home just before sunrise. It was during these extensive walks that he witnessed the utter poverty and squalor scattered throughout the streets of London. These walks brought inspiration for many of his novels, particularly, Hard Times.
In this novel, Dickens explores the applications of utilitarianism in its highly rational, and in many ways, brutal forms. The novels general theme is that a philosophy that is only concerned with happiness and survival for the majority, will attempt to quash any and all individual thought and effort. Individual ideas, emotion, imagination and creativity must be ruthlessly rejected in order for the majority of people to think alike, work alike and behave alike to attain a status quo of happiness for all. Rationality must prevail because imagination promotes individuality, which is anathema to mob concerns.
This polemic against utilitarianism is expressed clearly and persuasively in the practice of education. In the opening chapter for example, 'The One Thing Needful", the reader is introduced to this dictatorial emphasis on the rational:
"Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.Read more ›
Dickens does an admirable job in covering new ground concerning the factory owners and bankers exploitation of the poor, as well as exploring the beginnings of labor unrest in 1850's England. There is much for the factory laborer to be unhappy with in Cokestown, where the factories belch out dirty, polluted smoke all day long. Dickens combines these issues with his examination of the difficulties inherent in parenting and gives truth to the old adage that how the branch is bent, so grows the tree. Through much grief and contrition years later, school master Thomas Gradgrind learns that a cold, no nonsense approach to bringing up his daughter Louisa and his son, Tom, was wrong. Louisa has a good heart and dotes on her younger brother, but is otherwise very distrustful of humanity and exists in the world suffused in apathy; Tom is simply, as Dickens calls him, "a whelp", and a dishonest one at that. Louisa marries Josiah Bounderby, a banker who turns his nose up at the factory hands and mocks their aspirations to move up in the world. Bounderby refers to these individuals as trying to put a "gold spoon" in their mouths. The actions of Bounderby and the Gradgrinds directly lead to tragic consequences for Stephen Blackpool, an honest and courageous loom worker, who merely chooses not to be involved with the townspeople or their labor leader. Another old truth that there is no justice in the world is as real today as it was in Dickens' time.
Most recent customer reviews
I originally purchased it for English studies, but ended up reading it by myself. Read more
Charles Dickens at his trenchant best! "Hard Times" stabs at the heart of the philosophy of Utilitarianism, that ridiculous socio-economic dogma that emphasized cold facts taken... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Daffy Bibliophile
Charles Dickens is............well, simply Charles Dickens. While 'Hard Times' is one of his lesser known tales, it deserves the same merit with those of more popularly known... Read morePublished on March 18 2012 by Ronald W. Maron
"Hard Times" belongs to the second half of Dickens's writing career, in which his work becomes rather more somber and, by common critical assent, more mature and... Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2004 by Peter Reeve
It is unfortunate that HARD TIMES by Charles Dickens is not usually read outside the classroom. It is an unforgettable glimpse of an age that did not prize the worth of the... Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2003 by Martin Asiner
Dickens was a great rhetorician, but not a very deep social thinker. _Hard Times_ is the novel in which he tries to tell us that there are a Whole lot O' Things Wrong with Britain... Read morePublished on Oct. 23 2003 by Mark Silcox
Hard Times is first and foremost a burning indictment on industrialism and the total reliance on reason without consideration for emotions. It is also a great novel. Read morePublished on Sept. 16 2003 by Jennifer B. Barton
In this novel set in industrial revolution era Great Britain, Dickens is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Read morePublished on Sept. 9 2003 by Vilbs
I hated reading Dickens in high school, and I was never able to get past the first chapter of any of his books, including this one. Read morePublished on June 22 2003 by P. Costello