Christy's Reviews > Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
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Sep 01, 2010

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After the impoverished sentimental indulgences of "Oliver Twist", I found "Hard Times" startlingly vibrant and engaging. It starts, sir, with nothing but the Facts.

Mr. Gradgrind is a modern Victorian of the Malthusian cast and educates the young (his most of all) in principles of reason and science and Fact. There is no place for wonder or play or imagination in his school. He is supported in this flinty philosophy by the blustering industrialist, Mr. Bounderby, whose myth rests in his self-propelled rise from street urchin to factory owner. Pity Gradgrind's children who have never known childhood, only the Facts. Louisa, her father's favorite, consents to marry Bounderby for the sake of her brother, Tom ("the whelp"). Sissy Jupe (an Appalachian name if I ever heard one) is brought away from her fanciful life at the circus, to be taught the Facts. But Sissy may have qualities more difficult for Gradgrind to tabulate.

Alongside the Gradgrind/Bounderby story are the characters who live in the teeming world of the beetle-like factory hands. Miserable Stephen Blackpool is oppressed by those who "know the Facts," unable to free himself from his alcoholic wife or his easily exploited position.

The Gradgrind children are examples of how the mind and imagination and humanity of society suffer under an aggressively industrialized society. And Stephen and the angelic woman who loves him (and the rioters and the young girls caught in the machine levers), represent the many individuals who suffer under the structures of an industrial society, those who are the grist for the mill.

Despite the commentary on social and political negligence and cruelties, Dickens' most withering critique is for those in power who root out imagination and human warmth, the most necessary elements for a humane society.

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Comments (showing 1-2)

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Adam I once wrote a paper on the fairy-tale imagery in this novel. And the "corruption of Louisa" storyline is as involving as anything I've read in Dickens. In fact, the scene where Louisa confronts her father over what he did to her soul--with his philosophy of scientific materialism--is one of my favorite scenes in any novel.

message 1: by robert (new) - added it

robert I enjoy your adjectives, they help. This is good too:

"...who root out imagination and human warmth."

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