Sandi's Reviews > Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
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's review
Aug 10, 2011

really liked it

This is Dickens’ very best at what he does the very best. The so-over-the-top, and yet painfully true-to-life characters, (by virtue of the wonderful names alone: Bounderby, M’Chokumchild, Blackpool) are so precisely defined that they drive the narrative and put such a spotlight on elements of human pride. The story, then, is in the descriptions.

In some books, you can skip the lengthy descriptions, as they just provide realistic detail or clues into the nature of the character’s reaction or history, but in Dickens the description is all – it tells the whole story right there, provides the whole of the reason for the character’s actions, and makes the character instantly a hero or villain. There is a beauty of thrift in this method and makes the fact that the story isn’t entirely predictable from the very start simply amazing.

There is the usual Dickensian message of ‘pity the poor’ and ‘cherish individuality’ but it’s intertwined with such perfect irony that it’s not at all boring. There is such a gaggle of despicability that I found myself cheering for their inevitable comeuppances. In terms of fictional ‘just deserts’ Dickens has a God’s exactness – all get exactly what is most appropriate to their natures: the bombastic ass gets taken down a notch by his mother; the know-it-all finds he doesn’t; and the little girl that fails class outwits the A student. One can also see fairly obvious influences of Shakespeare and Homer in this work, which is all to the better.

If I were teaching a high school English class, I think I’d pick this book over the one-trick-pony, A Tale of Two Cities, any day.

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