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Hard Times Paperback – Aug 22 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (Aug. 22 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486419207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486419206
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.3 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #73,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

"My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else," proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme of this classic novel. Published in 1854, the story concerns one Thomas Gradgrind, a "fanatic of the demonstrable fact," who raises his children, Tom and Louisa, in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicality.
Without a moral compass to guide them, the children sink into lives of desperation and despair, played out against the grim background of Coketown, a wretched community shadowed by an industrial behemoth. Louisa falls into a loveless marriage with Josiah Bouderby, a vulgar banker, while the unscrupulous Tom, totally lacking in principle, becomes a thief who frames an innocent man for his crime. Witnessing the degradation and downfall of his children, Gradgrind realizes that his own misguided principles have ruined their lives.
Considered Dickens' harshest indictment of mid-19th-century industrial practices and their dehumanizing effects, this novel offers a fascinating tapestry of Victorian life, filled with the richness of detail, brilliant characterization, and passionate social concern that typify the novelist's finest creations.
Of Dickens' work, the eminent Victorian critic John Ruskin had this to say: "He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written; and all of them, but especially Hard Times, should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions."


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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on May 7 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Despite the explicit title, "Hard Times" is not so much an ode to poverty and misery as it is a commentary on the increasing impact of industrialization on the fragmentation of society and on the dehumanization of education. The result, as Dickens implies, leads to lives hollowed by the emptiness of work for work's sake and wealth for wealth's sake.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on April 23 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Considered by 19th century critics to be one of Dickens' more artistic and literary triumphs, Hard Times can be viewed in present time as a blistering polemic against the rise of industrial society and the dominate philosophy that rose in tandem with the industrial age, utilitarianism
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on March 14 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
_Hard Times_ is a familiarly sentimental work by Dickens. This is especially the case regarding the character of Sissy Jupe, an overly sweet, innocent young girl who is abandoned by her father. Dickens seems determined to tug at the heart strings with this character.
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.
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