Willa's Reviews > Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
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's review
May 30, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009
Read in May, 2009

I read this book after watching a DVD version with my family. From what I understand, it isn't considered one of his best books. The characters are fairly sketchy, the moral tone is fairly heavy-handed, and there is little of the poignant hilarity of Dickens at his best. IT is set in a factory town and the general theme has to do with the misery of the working class in contrast to the relative affluence and callousness of the upper middle class who benefits from their toil.

The other theme was to do with education. Mr Gradgrind raises his children upon principles of the strictest rationality. They are not allowed to hear nursery rhymes, read fairy tales, go to the circus or engage in anything remotely fanciful. Their education is all to do with what can be weighed, measured, defined in technical language and portrayed in statistical tables. He strictly forbids his daughter to wonder.

Plato said that wisdom begins in wonder, and this maxim becomes a sort of terrible prophecy as Mr Gradgrind raises a daughter who is emotionally stunted to the point of being suicidal and a son who cares about nothing but number one. His eventual epiphany is probably the main character movement in the book. The other characters basically stay static in their good aspects or lack of them. This was interesting to me, since I'd read bits from Hard Times in the past and had an idea of Mr Gradgrind as a sort of Murdstone or Squeers. There is a sort of redemption at the end, albeit a painful and partial one.
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