Hard Times: For These Times

Hard Times: For These Times[Epub] ➟ Hard Times: For These Times Author Charles Dickens – Jobs-in-kingston.co.uk My satire is against those who see figures and averages and nothing else proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme of this classic novel Published in 1854 the story concerns one Thomas Gradgr My satire is against those who see figures For These MOBI · and averages and nothing else proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme Hard Times: Epub / of this classic novel Published in the story concerns one Thomas Gradgrind a fanatic of the demonstrable fact who raises Times: For These PDF Æ his children Tom and Louisa in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicalityWithout a moral compass to guide them the children sink into lives of desperation and despair played out against the grim background of Coketown a wretched community shadowed by an industrial behemoth Louisa falls into a loveless marriage with Josiah Bouderby a vulgar banker while the unscrupulous Tom totally lacking in principle becomes a thief who frames an innocent man for his crime Witnessing the degradation and downfall of his children Gradgrind realizes that his own misguided principles have ruined their livesConsidered Dickens' harshest indictment of mid th century industrial practices and their dehumanizing effects this novel offers a fascinating tapestry of Victorian life filled with the richness of detail brilliant characterization and passionate social concern that typify the novelist's finest creationsOf Dickens' work the eminent Victorian critic John Ruskin had this to say He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written; and all of them but especially Hard Times should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social uestions. 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 importantMr 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'LouisaLoo 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 tooCeciliaSissy 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 developmentTomThe 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 perfectStephen 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 otherMrs 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 windowJames 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 GradgrindsBounderbysAll in all a brilliant book 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 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 uickly 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 uite 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 MrBlackpool 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 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 “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 natureMr 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 novelWhat 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 uote 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 messageFor 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 taskDickens 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 bookEven 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 uick 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 eually 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 endIt 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 uite 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 divulgeLouisa 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 grotesue 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 uieter 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 uite 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 uite 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 uite aptBut 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” Dickens wrote Hard Times as an attempt to increase sales of his flagging magazine and had to produce it in weekly instalments which probably explains why it's so bereft of inspiration and artistry It's ironic that a novel lauding the importance of heart and imagination as guiding principles in social reform should have a mercantile consideration at root Hard Times is a leaden rhetorical read There's little subtlety in its sermonising There's not even much of a story and what story there is doesn't always make sense Most surprisingly of all it doesn't include a single memorable character The characters are programmed automatons of the flimsy plot Even the humour is relentlessly off key The only positive note is his standard sentimentalised girl woman only plays a minor role in this novel For me this joins A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield as duds in the Dickens' canon though it doesn't possess the redeeming features those two novels possessed 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 uite 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 uite heartbreaking results and those who have interpreted the opposite of Gradgrindianism as the way forward and claim that inuiry creativity and transferable skills are the pillars of education and that facts are obsolete before they enter the heads of the suffering child vesselsNow I am uite 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 inuiry 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 otherSo cheers to the fact that facts are part of life and the devil is in the PART Hard Times is my return to Charles Dickens as an adult I have read Oliver Twist and David Copperfield as a child I didn't have an appetite for Dickens when I was young for his subjects were sad and depressing But as an adult I understand and appreciate him He touched so many sides of the society which were rarely spoken of before He penetrated into human minds so thoroughly and exposed both their black and white sides Although these ualities in his writing made me sad and depress before the same ualities have made me fall in love with his writing now Hard Times is Dickens's shortest novel Through a well outlined and well written story Dickens comments on the lives living and conditions of towns in the light of industrialization This social commentary gives a perfect picture of the lives and conditions of living of working class people and the dominating power exercised on them by their masters over every aspect of their lives suppressing them and using them to secure their wealth and position on life There is also a strong criticism of utilitarianism This theory was introduced in the aftermath of the industrial revolution to make it easy for the masters to control the working class depriving them of any capacity to reason and making them live a submissive life according to their whims and fancies Dickens's use of Facts against Reason throughout the book subtly mocks the theory and exposes the social downfall that it would lead to He brings the character of Louisa Gradgrind and demonstrates what tragedies one would face if they are suppressed of their capacity to feel and to reason Although it is a little overstated the point is clearly proved I liked the character variety in the book They ranged from kind goodhearted sweet tempered to cunning boastful treacherous This wide variety added colour and contrast to the book The story was engaging his social views kept me well connected with it all along I enjoyed his satire very much Dickens is a realistic writer of the Victorian era and that is the secret of his popularity even today 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 insteadThis 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 themAlthough 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 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 viewThe 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 novelsThe 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 individualThis 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 dragsThe 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 freuently 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” charactersDickens 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 verbosityMy 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 accentsIn 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 nightLast 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 Thuire Do the withe thing and the kind thing too and make the betht of uth; not the wurtht This

Hard Times: For These Times PDF Ý For These  MOBI
  • Paperback
  • 164 pages
  • Hard Times: For These Times
  • Charles Dickens
  • 10 November 2016
  • 9781975978600