Hard Times: For These Times

Hard Times: For These TimesBook Jacket Status Jacketed By , When Hard Times Was Published, Charles Dickens Magisterial Progress As A Writer Had Come To Incorporate A Many Sided, Coherent Vision Of English Society, Both As It Was And As He Wished It To Be Hard Times A Classic Dickensian Story Of Redemption Set In A North Of England Town Beset By Industrialism, Everywhere Benefits From This Vision In The Trenchancy Of Its Satire, In Its Sweeping Indignation At Social Injustice, And In The Persistent Humanity With Which Its Author Enlivens His Largest And Smallest Incidents

George Orwell and G K Chesterton for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day s work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day he died at Gad s Hill Place Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner, he was laid to rest in the Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads To the Memory of Charles Dickens England s most popular author who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed and by his death, one of England s greatest writers is lost to the world His last words were On the ground , in response to his sister in law Georgina s request that he lie down from Wikipedia

✎ Hard Times: For These Times pdf ✐ Author Charles Dickens – Uc0.info
  • Paperback
  • 301 pages
  • Hard Times: For These Times
  • Charles Dickens
  • English
  • 01 September 2017
  • 9780451523006

10 thoughts on “Hard Times: For These Times

  1. says:

    This book is, for me, Dickens best I loved every second of it, the darkness of Tom s steady descent into drinking and gambling were brilliant and there were several times I found myself simply rereading a few paragraphs over and over, in awe at them The end of Chapter XIX, The Whelp, is something I hold in very high regard as possibly one of his best pieces of writing ever I want to deal with the characters individually from here, since I feel they are all very important.Mr Gradgrind Facts This man s obsession with facts and hate for fantasy is possibly one of the most genius parts of the plot, highlighting exactly what Dickens means to say His regret at the end serves to show the inevitable outcome of living his sort of life, and is done in a very clever way His name is also wonderful I like to say it Gradgrind It s great, isn t it Bounderby Dickens made me hate him, and he was made to be hated For all his bluster and superiority he is in fact worse in moral integrity than Stephen or Tom, which is why I was intensely glad as Louisa took her steps away from him He really is a bounder.Louisa Loo A perfect tragic heroine, but I couldn t help thinking than once that she should really get some backbone But I suppose that was the point, so she was well done too.Cecilia Sissy I didn t like her very much, but I did like the way she was used, as the embodiment of fancy and fun She served to drive the point home and was useful in terms of story development.Tom The Whelp Goodness, I hated him sometimes As I ve already said, his descent was done well and some of the description around him was fantastic Dickens habit of referring to him as the whelp was perfect.Stephen Blackpool The character I could emphathise with most, he was likeable and pitiable I loved his struggle with Slackbridge and the Trade Union, and his contrasting relationships with Rachel and his wife made me feel very sorry for both of them His ending was also very sad, and shows just how cruel people can be to each other.Mrs Sparsit One of the most brilliant in the book The image of her staircase, with Louisa walking to the bottom, is one that has stuck with me as being particularly genius I also laughed at her disappointment by the train towards the end, as she was so anxious to see the downfall of others she ended up being nothing than a jobless window.James Harthouse Although for most of the book I wished Louisa would run away with him, the end convinced me otherwise Still, he was a very interesting character who provided a catalyst for all the suppressed emotions of the Gradgrinds Bounderbys.All in all, a brilliant book.

  2. says:

    Mr Thomas Gradgrind , a very wealthy, former merchant, now retired, only believes in facts, and mathematics, two plus two, is four facts are important, facts will lift you into prosperity, facts are what to live by, they are the only thing that matters, everything else is worthless knowing He sets up a model school, were the terrorized students, will learn this, and other subjects that are unfortunately, also taught the eminently practical man, teaches his five children at birth facts They fear him, a dictator, at home, his weak minded, sick wife, just looks on, wrapping herself up, to keep warm and complaining of her weariness But fictitious Coketown , Manchester is a dirty, factory town, incessant noises from countless machines, powered by coal, chimneys forever spewing dark gases, polluting the air, thick smoke like a twisting snake high above the atmosphere, moving this way and that, spreading all through the surrounding areas, the filth, the sickness, and early death, to the inhabitants, but the hands are not relevant, money is, making lots of it, that, and only that A foul smelling canal, and even , a purple river, flows by , the buildings becoming an ugly gray, quickly, the people have to escape to the countryside, to breath fresh healthy air Travelers going by this place, can only imagine there is a city there, under the black cloud covering, yet they can t see it Mr Gradgrind best friend, if there is such an animal, in his circle, is the banker, and manufacturer, Mr Josiah Bounderby, always telling anyone, within hearing distance, that he himself, rose from the gutter, to become a rich man, no help he did it alone Story after story, of his sleeping in the streets, hungry, soiled, without a farthing to his name Abandoned by the evil, uncaring, widowed mother, brought up by his horrible, drunken grandmother, who beats the child repeatedly Entertaining, heart wrenching, you felt for this man, how he suffered greatly in youth, except it s not quite true in fact, lies Louisa, Mr Gradgrind s oldest and favorite child, is very pretty, the bachelor Bounderby, has eyes for her, when she reaches the proper age of about 20, the fifty year old man, asks for her hand in marriage, of course, conveying this fact first, to her father Louisa says what does it matter, a prisoner in her own home, the girl hasn t seen anything of the world, disaster follows, the couple have nothing in common, what can they talk about Mrs Sparsit, her husband s meddling housekeeper, from a good family, hates her Louisa, flirts with the restless, gentleman, Mr James Harthouse, who proudly states that he is no good Still Louisa, only loves her brother, The Whelp , young Thomas, getting money from his sister, gambling, drinking, wasting it all and always coming back for The selfish boy, works in the bank for Mr Bounderby, his now, brother in law, when the well runs dry, the drunkard finds some 150 pounds sterling, inside the bank, not properly being used and sees, that it will be Implicating an innocent hand , Stephen Blackpool, fired recently by Bounderby, for speaking too much, shunned by the trade union members, for not joining, he walks the streets a lonely man, with an alcoholic wife who deserted him, she still periodically comes back , to sober up, and a sweetheart, that he can t marry too Mr.Blackpool, seeks work elsewhere, not knowing he s a suspect, in the puzzling crime The industrial revolution makes some people rich and others sick, but there is no going back , the dye has been cast

  3. says:

    The novel depends on the opposition between fact, Dickens s name for the cold and loveless attitude to the life he associated with Utilitarianism, and fancy, which represents all the warmth of the imagination A contrast which gives it both tension and unity.

  4. says:

    Hard Times is Dickens s novel set in the fictional Coketown and centering around utilitarian and industrial influences on Victorian society Dickens s brilliant use of characterization can be seen in high form here and as always, his naming of his story s populace is entertaining by itself The best is without a doubt Mr McChokumchild, a teacher Louisa Gradgrind is a thinly disguised fictionalization of John Stuart Mill One of the great things about reading literature from the 1800s or earlier is that a reader can ascertain how contemporary works have been influenced by the older work Wildly inspirational and influential Elements of Hard Times and Dickens work in general can be seen in Roger Waters works, Monty Python and even The Big Lebowski 2018 Dickens character names are the best Gradgrind Bounderby, Jupe, Sparsit Harthouse, Blackpool, Slackbridge But of course Mr McChoakumchild is the best, maybe the best in his canon McChoakumchild s name is an ax upon which his satire grinds, illustrating his social commentary.

  5. says:

    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 You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts nothing else will ever be of any service to them So begins Hard Times, and what an opening this is We know instantly from this, some of what the novel will be about, and the character of the man who says these words He is plain speaking in his inflexible, dry, and dictatorial voice, direct and committed to his extreme view of teaching as instruction His name is Mr Thomas Gradgrind, an eminently practical man , and he has an ailing wife, and five children called Louisa, Tom, Jane and revealingly Adam Smith and Malthus He has a misguided idea of Utilitarianism as a ideal in all things, only valuing facts and statistics, and ruthlessly suppressing the imaginative sides of his children s nature.Mr Gradgrind also has a close friend, a banker and mill owner, Josiah Bounderby, who boasts that he is a self made man, proud that he raised himself in the streets after being abandoned as a child and in the meantime never letting anyone forget it Whereas both men express the same hardnosed views, Josiah Bounderby is a very different sort of man, a blustering, arrogant and hypocritical man, A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty A man who was the Bully of humility We have never had any difficulty with you, and you have never been one of the unreasonable ones You don t expect to be set up in a coach and six, and to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, as a good many of em do Mr Bounderby always represented this to be the sole, immediate, and direct object of any Hand who was not entirely satisfied Hard Times is an unusual novel for Dickens, in that it is set in a Lancashire mill town in the North of England, and deals with the working conditions of the hands or workers there This is not Dickens s familiar geographical area, nor is this novel his best accomplishment by a long way Yet the novel is now a bestseller, and often the first one people read, or study at school, because it is his shortest novel.What prompted Dickens s sudden interest, was a twenty three week long mill workers strike in Preston, which Dickens had gone to see in January 1854, prior to writing about it in his periodical Household Words He based his invented grimy, soot besmirched Coketown on Preston There are fewer descriptive passages than usual in this short novel, but the depressed gloom of Coketown is very effectively conveyed, It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness In principle Dickens was very interested in this area of workers conditions and the resultant protests He had touched on working class unrest in Barnaby Rudge , and had intended to write about factories in Nicholas Nickleby , although both of these are far longer and powerful novels The article he wrote in Household Words after his visit, says, into the relations between employers and employed there must enter something of feeling and sentiment mutual explanation, forbearance and consideration otherwise those relations are wrong and rotten to the core and will otherwise never bear sound fruit Dickens firmly believed that every individual should have dignity and be accorded respect Unfortunately though, the part of the Preston Workers Bill that he went on to quote, presents itself as a standard Marxist theory of labour value, mentioning the gold which is now being used to crush those who created it This simply went too far, and alienated his readers The novel was not then very popular indeed all such criticisms of the upcoming Industrial Revolution were frowned on Looking backwards was not the way The popular belief was that rich rewards were in store, rapid progress was assured, and that mechanisation would provide a panacea for all Only in retrospect can we put Hard Times in context, and see what the author was trying to achieve in this specific short period of history, and also appreciate the many other aspects of the story, which were somewhat overshadowed by this unpopular message.For Dickens was keen to illustrate his beliefs with this, his tenth novel, published in weekly parts between April and August 1854 He also, perhaps unwisely, widened his remit to include another issue of social reform close to his heart, that of Education His earlier novels had become increasingly complex, dealing with multiple issues and with many intertwining plots, subplots and mysteries, culminating in the masterly Bleak House However, with Hard Times, he seems to have misjudged the scope slightly To write a searing indictment of Utilitarianism as currently practised, to damn both employment conditions and industrial action, plus condemning a theoretical Utiliarianism put into practice in schools, and to then put the whole into an entertaining framework with a dash of comedy and romance, was simply overambitious Sales of Household Words had been flagging, and Dickens attempted to boost these by issuing his new serial in weekly parts, instead of monthly parts, as hitherto This was alongside all the other activities in his life editing, directing, acting, his social work and speaking, plus all the domestic dramas he had Dickens worked best under pressure, but even he admitted that to write episodes of Hard Times week after week was crushing Dickens was a novelist, albeit an exceptionally talented novelist, and one of the first, but he was neither a philosopher nor a political economist and certainly not a revolutionary He was also aware that for the large part, his readers would have no truck with unionism He had set himself a well nigh impossible task.Dickens rallied for the underdog, and was keen to demonstrate the continuing inhumane conditions for the poor, and the new sort of constraints that industrialisation would bring in its wake for the workers But the way he depicts the good workers in this novel, Stephen Blackpool and Rachael, shows that his belief was in a sort of noble poor He thought they should accept their lot with dignity, and leave it to others to improve their conditions They are docile and harmless characters, working themselves to death When difficulties arise, they cannot be self sufficient They have no honourable alternative but to go cap in hand to their bosses, relying on a paternalistic system to help them They thus come across sometimes as mere mouthpieces for ideologies rather flat and unconvincing prototypes compared with the other characters in the book.Even if Dickens had had the time and space to develop this novel into the sort of Dickens novel which reigns supreme, it is doubtful whether it would serve the function he probably intended What it does do, is give a snapshot of people, rather than depict a mass movement We have individuals to represent the different types, and in Hard Times they unfortunately seem than ever mere constructs to spout certain opinions This is probably always going to be a danger with any persuasive novel Dickens also provided a counterweight to these noble poor characters Just as in Barnaby Rudge he had shown us that mob rule was not the answer, here too the organisers of the strike are shown as underhand manipulators, quick to remove themselves from any blame Slackbridge, the trade union agitator trying to convert the workers to unionism, is described as, not so honest not so manly, he was not so good humoured he substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid sense Mr Gradgrind s school, just as Josiah Bounderby s mill, is equally constrained, based on ideology, dry theory and a sort of blinkered ignorance of the emotional side of life Thomas Gradgrind, supported by the wonderfully named schoolmaster Mr M Choakumchild , is not an evil, nor even an unkind man He is contrasted with Josiah Bounderby right at the start, and Dickens makes it plain in his introduction that a large part of the novel will be to show the growth and development of Gradgrind s character I certainly felt very sorry for him by the end.It has to be said, that flawed though this novel is, the characters are an absolute delight Chief for sheer entertainment value has to be Mrs Sparsit, Josiah Bounderby s elderly housekeeper with her Coriolanian style of nose which is always poking into other people s business and dense black eyebrows She has aristocratic connections by way of her great aunt Lady Scadgers, and considers herself a cut above her employer Her interactions with the blustering, pompous Josiah Bounderby, are a constant source of amusement There is the pantomime villain, James Harthouse, an exaggerated version of Steerforth in David Copperfield I could almost imagine him twirling his moustache, smooth talking devil that he is a heartless and unprincipled young politician There is the anaemic fact spouting machine Bitzer And Mrs Gradgrind, a minor character, amusingly endearing, always telling her children they should be studying their ologies , A little, thin, white, pink eyed bundle of shawls, of surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily who was always taking physic without any effect, and who, whenever she showed a symptom of coming to life, was invariably stunned by some weighty piece of fact tumbling on her Most memorably, when asked if she is in pain, she remarks vaguely, I think there s a pain somewhere in the room but I couldn t positively say that I have got it There is the lisping Mr Sleary and his travelling circus Dickens always has to include a theatrical troupe, or some entertainers of this type in his novels, and his personal love of the exuberance and spontaneity of the circus, and the generosity of spirit of circus folk, shines through brightly When Sleary lisps, people mutht be amuthed it is really Dickens who is speaking Dickens held passionate views on the rights of everyone to amusements fighting against groups who advocated strict observance of the Sabbath, saying that Sunday was the only day that working people had to indulge in simple amusements, or even to attend museums and so forth To make a circus an integral part of the serious concerns of this novel s plot is quite a tour de force, but he achieves it Mr Sleary s circus is essential to both the beginning, where we are introduced to Louisa and Tom peeping under the curtain of the circus tent, intrigued by all the unfamiliar lights, drama, colour and action, and to the ending which, naturally, I shall not divulge.Louisa and Tom, sister and brother, are central characters Louisa would do anything for her brother, The Whelp , as Dickens calls him She loves Tom dearly, sullen though he is Louisa develops through experience, much as her father does she is a very strong character, whose initial sulkiness changes She has determination and obstinacy, but also a strong sense of duty and justice Through the story she moves through both indifference to her plight, and cynicism She undergoes trials and tribulations which might break any young spirit, but remains true to herself For those who unfairly castigate Dickens for docile females, look to Louisa or her friend Sissy Jupe, from the circus Or to Mrs Sparsit, of course, although she is of a grotesque than an heroic character No, in every single novel Dickens writes, he provides us with plenty of strong females It is clear however, that just as he does not like the poor to be too outspoken, he admires the quieter tenaciousness of women in extremis, and views this as an admirable female trait Interestingly, at the time of writing this novel, Dickens s own marriage was crumbling He had included three essays on divorce in Household Words that month, and in Hard Times he portrays the plight of a man who is unable to divorce his burdensome wife, even though in this case she is a drunk , a hopeless wretched addict It is Josiah Bounderby who explains in great detail everything that would be involved in such a procedure, Why you d have to go to Doctors Commons with a suit, and you d have to go to a Court of Common Law with a suit, and you d have to get an Act of Parliament to enable you to marry again, and it would cost you I suppose from a thousand to fifteen hunded pound perhaps twice the money The character he is speaking to earns a mere few shillings a week But it seems pertinent that Dickens inserted this detail Dickens researched his novels quite well, reading a book on the Lancashire dialect prior to writing this, for instance, to make sure his representation of the characters speech was accurate Divorce was expensive, legally difficult, and socially unacceptable in the 19th century It looks as though Dickens underwent intensive research on how to obtain a divorce, to see if it would be feasible for himself In fact he separated from Catherine, with whom he had ten children, four years later in 1858, but never did divorce her There are fewer characters in this novel than usual, and none of them seem to be based on real people Dickens knew, and whom his readers knew In earlier novels there were often several of these in one novel It must have been a guilty pleasure for many reading a new serial by Dickens, to look out for a recognisable character, such as his erstwhile friend Hans Christian Andersen, whom he had maliciously immortalised in the odious character of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield So it is quite disappointing to find none included, just as it is disappointing to realise that any illustrations were drawn later on, by various artists, and only a very few within Dickens s own lifetime Presumably the constraints of writing to a weekly deadline impinged on than the novel s text itself The critics views of Hard Times lurch from one extreme to the other One characterises it as sullen socialism yet another s view is that it is his masterpiece and his only serious work of art These views seem to be rather partisan, reflecting the political and socio economic views of the individual, rather than impartially judging any merit in, or assessment of, the novel itself It is undoubtedly not his best work, but it is enjoyable nevertheless Parts of it made me laugh out loud I felt suitably shocked, saddened and indignant at others It has all Dickens s sarcasm, wit, expostulation, sentiment and ridiculous cameos He can shift in a page turn from scathing satire to heart rending pathos In a way Hard Times is a throwback It is dissimilar to the majestic novels which immediately precede it, but is reminiscent of the biting sarcasm of the early novels such as Oliver Twist It does however show the maturity and skill of the later writer There is tragedy, frailty, robbery, treachery, deceit, impersonation, violence, greed, overarching ambition, possibly an attempted murder, imprisonment and deportation all humanity and inhumanity is here And what lingers is the message of the vital and enduring importance of the imagination and fantasy of a young life perilously close to being blighted by an upbringing blinkered by Utilitarian principles There is the satisfactory ending, characteristic of Dickens s novels, where all the characters are accounted for, and in general although not in every case the villains get their just desserts Hard Times is like a little taste of Dickens Sadly you do not get the depth of character, the richness of detail in his powerful descriptions, both of place and character, nor do you get the rich tapestry of convoluted plots Another critic wrote that it is like a menu card for a meal rather than one of Dickens s rich feasts, and this I find quite apt.But it is hugely enjoyable and could not be written by anyone else Give it a try, but if it is your first Dickens, please make sure it is not the only one You would miss out on so much How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death Where are the graces of my soul Where are the sentiments of my heart What have you done, oh, Father, What have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here said Louisa as she touched her heart.

  6. says:

    Hard Times, 1854,Charles DickensHard Times For These Times commonly known as Hard Times is the tenth novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1854 The book surveys English society and satirists the social and economic conditions of the era 2010 1364 446 71 1389 1394 416 978600941263 1812 1870 1854 .

  7. says:

    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 You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts nothing else will ever be of any service to them My reading of theories of pedagogy and knowledge development usually is quite separate from my reading of fiction for the pure pleasure of being human But now recently I have come across several references to the wonderful Dickensian caricature of positivism with the suggestive name of Gradgrind There is a war going on in the world of schooling, with a clear front between those who are in favour of the measurable fact based model that fictional Gradgrind tried on his own environment, with quite heartbreaking results, and those who have interpreted the opposite of Gradgrindianism as the way forward, and claim that inquiry, creativity and transferable skills are the pillars of education, and that facts are obsolete before they enter the heads of the suffering child vessels.Now I am quite sure that Dickens could have written a brilliant satire on the extreme opposite of Gradgrind s pedagogy if he had seen it in action How are children to develop ideas if they have no knowledge to get inspired by How are they going to proceed in inquiry if they have no basic understanding of the scientific concepts How are they going to create exciting and artistic visual and textual artefacts without the literacy skills that are the tools leading towards linguistic and artistic mastery How are they going to research a history topic independently that they have never heard of before, and definitely cannot put into context As happy as I am whenever Gradgrind shows up in the educational debates, I have to say that his very presence as a negative example of old school knowledge is an ironic symbol of the value of knowing the iconic history of literary or scientific reference points If you haven t had some kind of basic schooling in literature, you won t understand what Gradgrind s evil represents to evaluate his mentioning in the school debate, you have to know about Victorian standpoints, Dickens position within them, Gradgrind s failure, and educational theories over the past century that have swung like a pendulum from one extreme to the other.So cheers to the fact that facts are part of life and the devil is in the PART

  8. says:

    In current political discourse I have a particular dislike of the phrase Hard working families since it implies it is not good enough to be working, or in a family, or even merely both of those together No, only if it in addition to that you are sufficiently hard working are you good enough for your needs to be taken seriously in politics, and if you should slacken in your Stakhanovite ardour by preferring maybe to take a holiday rather than like Boxer in Animal Farm to work yourself into the glue factory, then presumably policy makers will think to Hell with you then.I feel that it was to counter such utilitarianism and the implicit acceptance of GDP ever increasing and the positive balance sheet as the meaning and purpose of life that Dickens wrote this comic melodrama and and to assert the burning importance of creating in law a form of affordable and accessible divorce, which was a matter of particular concern to Dickens once he decided that he was bored of his wife and preferred rushing about after a young actress instead.This is possibly my favourite Dickens novel, apart from or including all my other favourite Dickens novels, although it is a shade melodramatic, than others at least it does not try to jerk the tears out of you It is short, punchy and humorous I think you see in this one, because it is short, how Dickens suffered from an excess of ideas so at the start we are introduced to school teachers Mr Mrs McChokemchild who appear twice in the novel before disappearing completely Indeed they are so insignificant that Dickens needn t have bothered naming them.Although the novel is set in a Northern English industrial town Coketown view spoiler although that suggests steel and metal working, it seems from the mentions of fluff that the business of Coketown is based around cotton and weaving rather than coke and coking hide spoiler

  9. says:

    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 You can only form the mind of reasoning animals upon Facts nothing else will ever be of any service to them Mr Gradgrind, Hard Times We don t need no educationWe don t need no thought control Another Brick in the Wall Part II Roger Waters, Pink Floyd Roger Waters lyrics could almost be a direct response to Mr Gradgrind s ridiculous world view.The worst thing about Hard Times is the title, very off putting You get the feeling that the book will indeed give you a hard time and should be avoided like the plague particularly if you have never read Dickens before and assume that his books are hard to read As it turned out Hard Times is one of the easiest Dickens books to follow, neither the plot or the prose is particularly convoluted It is also one of his shortest and most concise, clocking in at a measly 350 or so pages instead of 1000 like most of his novels.The major theme, as far as I can discern, is the effect of stifling upbringing and overly rigid fact based education at the expense of allowing children to cultivate their imagination Facts and figures are essential for the development of intellect but they need to be balanced with fanciful stories and leisurely pastime The novel s protagonist Louisa was raised and homeschooled by her father to only be concerned with facts facts facts and tales of fantasy, circuses etc, are boycotted This has the effect of turning an innately decent loving girl into a living refrigerator The effect on her brother is even worse, as he grows up to be a dissipated, deceitful and generally useless individual.This being a Dickens novel the plight of the poor and the injustice society inflicts on them is depicted with a fierce passion Both the masters factory owners and trade unionists are portrayed in very poor light To balance the unsavory characters Dickens also introduces us to his stock nice , simple and honest characters and several eccentric ones Also, even with the serious issues, Dickens wants to bring to your attention in this book, he never forgets his storytelling duties, Hard Times is well paced, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and never drags.The reason I enjoy reading about Dickens characters is the reason his detractors criticize him for His supporting characters tend to be colorful in appearance, behavior and speech However, they are also frequently cartoonish and unbelievable as real people This is perfectly acceptable to me because I don t think Dickens intention is to write ultra real gritty fiction The crazy characters are there to entertain and also function as caricatures of certain types of people for metaphorical purposes For example Josiah Bounderby one of the antagonists seems like some kind of angry red balloon, all bluster and extreme arrogance His housekeeper Mrs Sparsit is super aristocratic and a real nasty piece of work James Harthouse, a total cad with the seduction of Louisa in mind His slick patter is very amusing and brings to mind one of Oscar Wilde s outrageous motormouth characters.Dickens also gets a lot of flak for his melodramatic sentimental plots and deus ex machina All true but without writing a tedious defence of the great man I would simply say that I am OK with it all I always find his fiction to be accessible, entertaining and poignant His prose is also a work of art, sometimes sardonic sometimes lyrical Again the haters find him verbose, and again I enjoy his verbosity.My audiobook version is superbly performed by actor Martin Jarvis, definitely not just a narration, but an actual dramatic vocal performance with tons of different voices and accents.In conclusion, this alleged review seems like an exercise in Dickens fanboying now that s something you don t see every day than a proper review Ah well, it s the best I can do at this time of night.Last words go to Mr Sleary, circus manager extraordinaire who speaks with a lisp People mutht be amuthed They can t be alwayth a learning, nor yet they can t be alwayth a working, they an t made for it You mutht have uth, Thquire Do the withe thing and the kind thing too, and make the betht of uth not the wurtht This.

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