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Hard Times

3.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Signet Classic / New American Library (1961)
  • ASIN: B004J151P0
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wonderful purchase.

I originally purchased it for English studies, but ended up reading it by myself. I love Hard Times, but I won't go into too many details regarding that. I suppose that many would buy this book not just for reading for fun, and read the reviews to figure out if the book is worth reading.

This edition, in particular, has an introduction (which I would personally read after finishing the original text), some notes, and Dickens's manuscript, all of which contribute greatly to one's understanding and interpretation of the text. They explain some colloquialism, archaic word use, historical connotations, and biblical references. I would certainly not have enjoyed the depth of this work so much without them.
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By Daffy Bibliophile TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 10 2015
Format: Paperback
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 out of their context, greed, self-interest, and not much else. Lacking any pretense to humanity Utilitarianism killed any human spirit which it came in contact with and turned human beings into numbers, cogs in a machine. Dickens did an excellent job of ridiculing this ludicrous philosophy and he told a good tale at the same time. The characters in "Hard Times" are flesh and blood human beings forced to live in circumstances which are debilitating to both body and soul. Pure capitalism. Dickens' writing flows and his ideas flow along with his story. Read and enjoy!
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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: 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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