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Penguin Classics Hard Times [Paperback]

Charles Dickens , Kate Flint
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 25 2003 014143967X 978-0141439679 Reissue
A damning indictment of Utilitarianism and the dehumanising influence of the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens's "Hard Times" is edited with an introduction and notes by Kate Flint in "Penguin Classics". In "Hard Times", the Northern mill-town of 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 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. This edition of "Hard Times" is based on the text of the first volume publication of 1854. Kate Flint's introduction sheds light on the frequently overlooked character interplay in Dickens's great critique of Victorian industrial society. Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including "Oliver Twist", "Great Expectations", "A Tale of Two Cities", "David Copperfield" and "The Pickwick Papers", have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed "Hard Times", you might like Dickens' "Bleak House", also available in "Penguin Classics". "A masterpiece...a completely serious work of art". (F.R. Leavis).

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Product Description

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.


"This is a work indispensable for a discussion of the reflection of the process of industrialization in European Realism as well as the question of education. A superb social commentary on the times."--Sven H. Rossel, University of Washington

"Nicely printed, but inexpensive, clear edition--what I'm looking for."--Dr. Dolores Luhr, La Salle University

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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'Now, what I want is, Facts. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Old Truths 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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Rationality vs. Humanism.....
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 more
Published on March 18 2012 by Ronald W. Maron
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the time
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 more
Published on June 22 2003 by P. Costello
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
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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