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Hard Times

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  60,692 ratings  ·  3,200 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 gui
Paperback, 353 pages
Published October 9th 2003 by Pearson Longman (first published 1854)
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Jenny H 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 'Victorian…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)
Selene Taxidis I do, most definitely. Sadly not much has changed despite our advancement technologically. Human emotions/conditions remain the same and quite consist…moreI do, most definitely. Sadly not much has changed despite our advancement technologically. Human emotions/conditions remain the same and quite consistent; greed and envy for example. (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 - Fac
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. ...more
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
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 earlie
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” v
Violet wells
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
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 d ...more
"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 Dickens
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
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 qualities in his writing made me sad and depress before ...more
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.
Mar 12, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
“The only difference between us and the professors of virtue or benevolence, or philanthropy - never mind the name - is that we know it is all meaningless, and say so, while they know it equally and will never say so.”
Charles Dickens, Hard Times

One of Dickens' shortest works deemed as one of his best by some readers and critics.... deemed his worse by me. The almost sledgehammer-like satirising of the ills of industrialisation and utilitarianism, with the trials and tribulations of the Gradgrind
✨    jay   ✨
this is what victorian people had to explain utilitarianism because they didn't have the good place on netflix ...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 w
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.
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 north, rather
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 re
Nov 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about Charles Dickens shortest novel, Hard Times. As a satire/social commentary of 19th Century English Industrialization, morality/ethics and utilitarianism (Phew!) it succeeds pretty well. As for straight up storytelling, I think it falls flat.
As a satire, tis a bit heavy-handed and smothers the lively, colorful characters Dickens is so great at creating. One of the characters, Stephen Blackpool, an honest factory worker and man of great integrity, speaks in a vernacular
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 shal ...more
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 th
Julian Worker
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I never thought I'd enjoy a Charles Dickens novel so much...on to the next one.

I believe Coketown is based on Manchester. If it is, then it's interesting that the mills that inspired Dickens to write Hard Times might have been the same ones that influenced Friedrich Engels to write The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1845.

Written in 1854, Hard Times shows Dickens is concerned with the way in which industrialisation de-humanises people. Bounderby treats people as numbers and Gradgr
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 reading
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
Dave Schaafsma
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Mavis Staples sings Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times”

Hard Times is what they now call The Great Depression, about which Studs Terkel wrote his monumental work of oral history. So Hard Times by Charles Dickens is a book about working class northern England, but of it he said,

"My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else."

I read it in my twenties, and read it now in a time when “data-driven” numbers rule the day, and even in public e
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics

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 that will lead to flights of fancy which can
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 a
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 t
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know everyone one says this is the least popular novel of Dickens, but I loved it! Full of Frivolity, fun, Friendship and Forgiveness! Sorry can't help myself when there's an opportunity for alliteration. I found the characters not only well rounded but also full of depth, I always like it when an accomplished author portrays a character as a deadly sin and then lets them loose on each other, only with some of those characters to eventually to work out for themselves that they in fact are flaw ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, how I’ve missed Charles Dickens!

Hard Times is quite different than most other Charles Dickens novels. At around three hundred pages it comes in 1/2 the length (or less) of most of Dickens’ other novels. Readers don’t get the numerous plot lines and laundry list of characters, but it is nonetheless very worthwhile. I loved every minute of reading this.

This novel is sharply written - Dickens was definitely on his game when he wrote this one! I don’t mind exaggeration and dramatization when i
Rosemary Atwell
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
The influence of Thomas Carlyle and other critics of the Industrial Revolution can be felt throughout this work - a sober fable of the effects of dehumanisation and material values of the Victorian merchant classes, and didactically lampooned in the characters of Thomas Gradgrind and Josiah Bounderby. Their victims - Gradgrind's family, Stephen Blackpool, Rachel and the foppish Jem Harthouse, provide a supporting cast of typical Dickens characters and allow the author to alert his readers to the ...more
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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The Old Curiosity...: Book 1 Chp. 1-3 26 12 42 minutes ago  
The Old Curiosity...: Reading Schedule, and Preliminary Remarks 25 25 Jun 08, 2021 03:07AM  
Classics: Hard Times 2 2 Jun 08, 2021 12:11AM  
Reading 1001: Hard Times by Charles Dickens 2 13 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 54 Apr 22, 2017 03:11AM  

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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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