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Hard Times

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  50,682 ratings  ·  2,736 reviews
"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 Gradgrind, a "fanatic of the demonstrable fact," who raises his children, Tom and Louisa, in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicality.

Without a moral compass to
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Paperback, 353 pages
Published October 19th 2003 by Pearson Longman (first published 1854)
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Jenny I don't think she's meant to be a 'representative character for Victorian women' - for one thing, Dickens wouldn't have thought of her as a…moreI don't think she's meant to be a 'representative character for Victorian women' - for one thing, Dickens wouldn't have thought of her as a 'Victorian' woman because he was a Victorian himself.
I think Rachael is there as a contrast to Louisa - a good, sensible woman, but one who hasn't been subjected to Louisa's terrible education and isn't afraid to let herself feel.(less)
Lana Ellis Yes, it's there, displayed in different variations by several characters. Firstly, by Mr. Gradgrind and his "facts only, no fancy allowed" philosophy…moreYes, it's there, displayed in different variations by several characters. Firstly, by Mr. Gradgrind and his "facts only, no fancy allowed" philosophy of life and method of educating children. He believes only in things that do not defy logic and serve some purpose. And secondly by Mr. Bounderby who lives his life to gain and prosper no matter what. His self interest and assertion prevailed the feelings to his own mother, not to mention the way he treats his workers. (less)

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Rhiannon D'Averc
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 -
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Amit Mishra
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Henry Avila
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ... ...more
Lyn
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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Bionic Jean
“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”
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Lisa
"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
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Jan-Maat
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 ...more
Apatt
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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 education
We 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
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Piyangie
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library, brit-lit
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 him better. 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 qualities in his writing made me sad and depress before, the ...more
Helene Jeppesen
This book is another evidence of Charles Dickens' brilliancy when it comes to writing. He starts with one person and her destiny, but gradually the story becomes more and more intricate and complex, and in the end you end up with a completely different story from what you started out with.
I have quite an ambivalent relationship to Charles Dickens and his books. Some of them I love, some of them confuse me or end up disappointing me. "Hard Times" was a good story, but I was mildly disappointed
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✨    jamieson   ✨
this is what victorian people had to explain utilitarianism because they didn't have the good place on netflix
Bryce Wilson
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-lit
Not Dicken's best work, but still, ya know, Dickens.

It's pretty much "Lets light some straw men on fire!" day in Dickens land. Presumably Hard Times was chosen as the title because "Let's Kick Some Deserving Fuckers In The Teeth" was already taken.

Still I don't know anyone I'd rather watch burn people and deliver teeth kicks then Dickens.
Jonfaith
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?

My friend Levi Stahl once noted how reading Henry James utilized the higher gears of his brain. I have always relished that sentiment, though I fear Henry James is above my pay grade. It is a different kettle with Dickens, my maudlin thoughts drift to Cassavetes on Capra, a reworking of my already
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Craig Robb
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 12-08-2013
They say no-one reads a book to get to the middle. Well, for Hard Times, perhaps they should, so disappointing the end turns out to be, this is one of the examples of how literature has improved over the years. Having read Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities and enjoying them all immensely I tried Hard Times, having read here and elsewhere that the book represented Dickens at his best. It does not, and to say that it does devalues his other work. The book is filled with ...more
MJ Nicholls
Hard Times opens with the usual Dickens comic brio and sabre-toothed satire. Mr Gradgrind’s pursuit of Facts, Facts, Facts deadens his daughter Louisa’s sense of Fancy and humour, until she relents to a marriage to Mr. Bounderby—surely the progenitor of this Monty Python sketch. As the novel moves into its second half, the melodramatic and laboured Steven Blackpool narrative distracts from the more poignant story of circus orphan Sissy and the Gradgrinds. Steven’s phonetic Lancastrian dialect is ...more
Antonomasia
Hard Times: For These Times
Penguin edition with intro & notes by Kate Flint

Beyond the Brontes, there aren't many classic novels set in the North of England, and for years I'd been kind-of-meaning to read a few more, especially about workers and heavy industry, Mary Barton, Sons & Lovers, and Hard Times. (As per comment below, North and South was off the table because I'd already seen the TV series and didn't love the plot, and it's also the story of a middle-class southerner moving
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Holly
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel actually really surprised me. Many reviews on Goodreads liken the title to the reading experience, one of pushing through long details and descriptions. Actually, this book has done the opposite for me. My reading of Victorian books has been few and far between. Middlemarch was a great novel, one which I am glad I read, and I recently bought a 16-book Dickens Collection in an attempt to get some more of his under my belt.

Having only read A Tale of Two Cities previously, I was aware
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Alan
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I taught this novel many times--oh, a dozen--because it's the shortest Dickens, fits into a college course easier than Nicholas Nickleby, my favorite, which I only taught once. Likewise with War and Peace only once because it took mostly the whole semester. Hard Times is excellent on education, only Nicholas surpassing it--and perhaps Tom Sawyer, on American and Church education.
Gradgrind, the businessman who sets the tone of M'Choakumchild's school, disapproves of his daughter Louisa's
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Pink
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Alright, so I was quite prejudiced going into this. I read and disliked A Christmas Carol and in my head I feel like I'm not a Dickens fan. Despite this being the first novel of his I've tried. It's his shortest finished book and depicts the social structures of the time, which I'm interested in reading. So it made sense to start here.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't like all of the characters and at times I was frustrated with the plot, but I enjoyed listening to it on audiobook
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Cori
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: audio book lovers
From my blog:

NOTE: I listened to the audio version.

For some reason, I could never get into Dickens. I was an English major, for goodness' sake. I tried David Copperfield. I tried the Pickwick Papers. I tried Oliver Twist. All meh, and I didn't finish any of them. I have, however, enjoyed many a film adaptation of his novels, including Bleak House (fan. tas. tic.) and Nicholas Nickleby, so I knew that it couldn't be that bad. Anyway, my friend Hillary has recommended Hard Times for a long time,
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midnightfaerie
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Click here for Charles Dickens Disclaimer

I'm not even sure where to start with this book. First of all, Hard Times is one of the shorter, and lesser known of the Dickens novels. At only around four hundred pages, it almost seems like a novella compared to his other tomes of one thousand pages or more. The book has some interesting characters. We have Thomas Gradgrind, the obstinate disciplinarian, who raises his children to use their head and facts in all things and to never "wonder" because
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Mohammed Arabey
I study it At my last High School year...
It was seriously Hard Times :)
I loved the story and lived in my head the places,the characters ... I even create a cast for the novel to live it :)
Sara
At the outset of this novel, we know that Dickens is going to pit reason against emotion, fact against feeling, and that reason and fact are going to come up short. In a world without sympathy, compassion or warmth, Louisa and Tom Gradgrind are raised. They have everything they might want in terms of money and position, but nothing else; their contrast is Sissy Jupe, a circus child who has the love of both her father and the circus family, but is steeped in poverty.

In true Dickens style, there
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Rashaan
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A slim and compact tale whose characters and story packs a powerful punch, Dickens’ Hard Times is as vitriolic an indictment against the institutionalized teaching model Paolo Friere scathingly criticized as the “banking concept” in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Josiah Bounderby is delectably drawn, as is the crooked and colorful characters of James Harthouse, Mrs. Sparsit, and our cold and calculated heroine, Louisa Gradgrind. Dickens, at first, seems to forgo his typical habit of idealizing ...more
Sophie
Apr 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
this book took me aaaages to finish.
some chapters i liked, though some bored me to death. likewise, i absolutely hated some of the characters, for instance, Bounderby was despicable, whereas i could sympathize with Stephen.
all in all, it was not an awful book, i found it quite enjoyable, however i didn't love it.
Ana
Dickens becomes a very hard author to read once you move past his childhood-centered works. Suddenly, everything is about morality or politics. I enjoy his writing, but you do need both patience and an ability to change the register in which you're reading his work. "Hard Times" was first published in 1854 - few readers of contemporary or modern literature can truly adjust to the sort of language used in his books.

Dickens is truly timeless, timeless through his themes and approach, as well as
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Suzy
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Suzy by: The Pickwick Club group read
This is my first Dickens outside of A Christmas Carol. I really enjoyed it, although I have nothing to compare it to in terms of his writing. Published in 1854, it is set in Coketown, a fictitious factory town in England. The central premise of this book is established early on (p. 11) when Thomas Gradgrind is alarmed to find two of his children peeking in on a circus. This after he has delivered his philosophy on the main point of life to the local teacher, Mr. M'Choakumchild:

"Now what I want
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Chris Gager
I looked through 10+ pages of cover images and gave up. I'm reading a paperback from Dolphin Books. No idea how old it is, but it's in pretty good shape. $0.95 new. I also have a hardbound edition that's part of a complete set of Dickens, but is not in such good shape. Anyway, it's time I got back to the 19th century and Mr. D. in particular. Pretty good so far ...

Moving on as CD sets up his plot and characters deliberately. The whole lithping thing'th kind of nnoying, ithn't it??? Then there's
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Zulfiya
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This is the second novel written by Dickens that I meanly give only three stars. The Dickens chemistry, his verve, and his charisma are not here.

Don't get me wrong - all the characters are typically his, as well as his pathos, his satire, and his WORDSMITHERY. Despite his typical Dickens features, it was one of the most unlikable novel - the characters were all detached from the me, and their inner world eluded me all the time. Their heartbeats, their desires, and their hopes that his
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Darwin8u
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The Good Samaritan was indeed a bad economist. Without becoming overly didactical, Dickens was able to explore in 'Hard Times' the contest between the oppositional conversations of Christian altruism (Louisa and Sissy) and market-driven, utilitarian self-interest (Bounderby and Bitzer). The novel takes its ethical position from the famous parable's narrative of redemptive love. You probably don't need to guess which side of this argument Dickens favors. The story was simple but deep. The ...more
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Reading 1001: Hard Times by Charles Dickens 2 10 Sep 08, 2019 02:08PM  
Goodreads Librari...: unknown page number 2 217 Aug 27, 2018 07:20PM  
The Pickwick Club: Part I Chapters 01 - 03 94 52 Apr 22, 2017 03:11AM  
The Not-So-Hypoth...: Hard Times (spoilers) 4 29 Apr 11, 2017 08:50AM  
Catching up on Cl...: Hard Times - SPOILERS 25 70 Apr 02, 2017 08:56AM  

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21,848 followers
Charles John Huffam Dickens was a writer and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

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“There is a wisdom of the head, and... there is a wisdom of the heart.” 553 likes
“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.” 76 likes
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