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Hard Times [Unknown Binding]

Charles Dickens
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dickens message still relevant. 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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the time June 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Now that I'm in my mid-30's, I want to re-visit a lot of the works that I had no patience for as a teenager, so I read Hard Times. Although there are many flaws to this book, I felt proud to have finally cleared the Dickens hurdle. Dickens is excellent at creating sympathetic (and evil) characters, even though they may be slightly cliche or wooden. The fact is, Dickens is able to hook you in with his plots and create a profound concern on behalf of the reader that the good guy (or girl) wins and the bad guy suffers. A lot of the twists in this book were a little "too convenient" and implausible to make it a crowining work of literature, but nevertheless it has motivated me to move on to Dickens' larger, more daunting works. If you are having any trepidation about tackling Dickens, Hard Times is a good place to start.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rationality vs. Humanism..... March 18 2012
By Ronald W. Maron TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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 titles. The characterizations that are present have an equal depiction with those of any other of his other works and his descriptions of venues are, as I said before, simply Charles Dickens. No one weaves a clearer tale with such clearly defined characters as does he. The other fascinating factor about this author is the manner in which he simply throws out character after character and then, at the end of the novel, draws them all back together in a tightly knitted plot line. While this novel is known for its rationality vs. humanism conflict, class separation, family ties and elitism are fully explored as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dickens sings the blues. May 7 2003
By A.J.
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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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Hardly a masterpiece, but brilliant at times
"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 more
Published on Feb. 20 2004 by Peter Reeve
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Were Hard--And Dickens Shows How & Why
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 more
Published on Nov. 4 2003 by Martin Asiner
3.0 out of 5 stars Outside his range.
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 more
Published on Oct. 23 2003 by Mark Silcox
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
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 more
Published on Sept. 16 2003 by Jennifer B. Barton
4.0 out of 5 stars Scathing
In this novel set in industrial revolution era Great Britain, Dickens is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2003 by Vilbs
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than Facts
I initially lamented the fact that Hard Times was assigned to me in my British lit. class. I had read some of Dickens's melodramas like A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist and... Read more
Published on March 30 2003 by Oddsfish
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Old Truths
_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... Read more
Published on March 14 2003 by IRA Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Times-A Commentary on Industrial England
If you read Hard Times for the sole purpose of being entertained you will probably be highly disappointed. Read more
Published on April 17 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars "Facts, Facts, Facts"
"Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life...Stick to the Facts, sir! Read more
Published on April 11 2002 by kerri huckins
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