Hard Times

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Hard Times

by Charles Dickens
Introduction by Robert Donald Spector

Random House Publishing Group | March 1, 1981 | Mass Market Paperbound |

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Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens's weekly magazine, Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of The Pickwick Papers and The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a bitter exposé of capitalist exploitation during the industrial revolution-and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters-including the heartless fact-worshipper
Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool-Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens's major novels.

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 320 Pages, 3.94 × 6.69 × 0.39 in

Published: March 1, 1981

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0553210165

ISBN - 13: 9780553210163

Found in: Fiction and Literature
Appropriate for ages: 14 - 17

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– More About This Product –

Hard Times

Hard Times

by Charles Dickens
Introduction by Robert Donald Spector

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 320 Pages, 3.94 × 6.69 × 0.39 in

Published: March 1, 1981

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0553210165

ISBN - 13: 9780553210163

About the Book

Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens's weekly magazine, "Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of "The Pickwick Papers and "The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a bitter expose of capitalist exploitation during the industrial revolution-and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters-including the heartless fact-worshipper
Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool-"Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens's major novels.

Read from the Book

CHAPTER I The One Thing Needful “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. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, Sir!” The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellerage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders,—nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat wit
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From the Publisher

Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens's weekly magazine, Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of The Pickwick Papers and The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a bitter exposé of capitalist exploitation during the industrial revolution-and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters-including the heartless fact-worshipper
Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool-Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens's major novels.

From the Jacket

Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens''s weekly magazine, "Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of "The Pickwick Papers and "The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a bitter expose of capitalist exploitation during the industrial revolution-and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters-including the heartless fact-worshipper
Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool-"Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens''s major novels.

About the Author

Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7th, 1812. At the age of eleven, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work in a London blacking warehouse, where his job was to paste labels on bottles for six shillings a week. When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to school, after which he became an office boy, a freelance reporter, and finally an author. With Pickwick Papers (1836-7) he achieved immediate fame; in a few years he was easily the most popular and respected writer of his time. It has been estimated that one out of every ten persons in Victorian England was a Dickens reader. Oliver Twist (1837), Nicholas Nickelby (1838-9), and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) were huge successes. Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-4) was less so, but Dickens followed it with his unforgettable A Christmas Carol (1843). Bleak House (1852-3), Hard Times (1854), and Little Dorrit (1855-7) reveal his deepening concern for the injustices of British society. A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-61) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5) complete his major works.

From Our Editors

Hard Times appeared in weekly parts in Household Words in 1854, printed on the pages usually occupied by leading articles on the major social issues of the day. In the overlapping worlds of Gradgrind's schoolroom, Bounderby the humbug industrialist and Sissy Jupe of Sleary's Circus, Dickens joyfully satirizes Utilitarianism, the self-help doctrines of Samuel Smiles and the mechanization of the mid-Victorian soul. Although it is often called Dickens's 'industrial novel', as Kate Flint argues in her new Introduction Hard Times defies easy categorization. It is a novel deeply preoccupied with childhood and family life, bursting with unresolvable tensions and contradictions and wonderfully entertaining in its metaphorical wit and invention.

Editorial Reviews

Dickens's widely read satirical account of the Industrial Revolution.

Dickens creates the Victorian industrial city of Coketown, in northern England, and its unforgettable citizens, such as the unwavering utilitarian Thomas Gradgrind and the factory owner Josiah Bounderby, and the result is his famous critique of capitalist philosophy, the exploitative force he believed was destroying human creativity and joy. This edition includes new notes to the text.


From the Paperback edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Did Dickens have a clear purpose in writing Hard Times? Was Hard Times primarily an exhortation to solve the problems faced by
nineteenth-century England, or was his subject matter merely a vehicle that allowed him to write a humorous story using the familiar character types of his day? Do you consider Dickens primarily to be an activist? A social critic? A humor writer?

2. Describe the relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind. Why is Mr. Gradgrind's philosophy lost on Mrs. Gradgrind? What accounts for her total lack of understanding?

3. In the first few words of Hard Times, in the title to the first book, "Sowing," there is a biblical allusion. Hard Times ends with another biblical allusion in the penultimate paragraph, where Dickens refers to the "Writing on the Wall." Biblical references are made throughout the novel, and Christian sentiment is appealed to constantly. How important are Christian underpinnings to Dickens's moral message? Do Dickens's criticisms and appeals go beyond the religious? If so, what other moral ideals are put forth in Hard Times, and what are their implications?

4. Coketown is, of course, a wholly fictitious city. However, it is a microcosm of England during the time of the Industrial Revolution and is modeled on cities that existed at the time. What are the problems of Coketown, and what are the causes of these problems? As a community, does Coketown accurately or inaccurately portray the ills of nineteenth-century English industrial cities? Does the creation of this fictitious town make Dickens's satire more effective than if he were to situate it in a real city? Why?

5. Since the conditions of life in English factory towns have changed, and many years have passed since the writing of Hard Times, what can be said to be the book's lasting value? Is it primarily historical, painting a picture of the way life was at one time? Is it moral or philosophical? Are the aspects of the novel that were important at the time of its publication still the ones that are valued today?

6. Are Rachael and Stephen realistic characters, even in the context of a satirical novel? What purpose do they serve to the novel as a whole, and which characters are they most starkly contrasted with? How does the scene of Stephen's death stand out in the novel? How is it important to the overarching themes Dickens is trying to convey?

Appropriate for ages: 14 - 17

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