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Hard Times Paperback – Aug 22 2001

3.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Paperback, Aug 22 2001
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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (Aug. 22 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486419207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486419206
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #134,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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 alternate Paperback edition.


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 an alternate Paperback edition.

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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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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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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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