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Hard Times
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Charles Dickens Collection > Hard Times - SPOILERS

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Pink | 6556 comments This is the discussion thread for Hard Times by Charles Dickens, our Old School Classic Group Read for February 2017.

Spoilers allowed here.

Please feel free to discuss anything you wish, relating to the book and let us know what you thought :)

Loretta | 2668 comments I'm almost finished with the book. To me it seems very disjointed and I'm wondering how it will all come together at the end.

Nina Ive | 67 comments I'm up to about page 50 and looking forward to the weekend so I can get into it a bit more. The descriptions are amazing as always.

Nell Beaudry (lightfoxing) It's been a while since I've read this, but it's my favourite Dickens -- I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody thinks of it!

Loretta | 2668 comments I finished the book today and all I can say is, color me unimpressed.

Piyangie | 407 comments Finished this last December. It is the best Dickens I have read so far. Here Dickens has preserved his satirical writing style through a set of characters that are peculiar but yet interesting. The facts Vs reasons concept is as I see a mocking at the society. This book is a real eye opener for the changes made to the English society by the industrial revolution that brought about a calculating human mass who have closed their hearts for human reason. This is apt for the modern world as well. In that sense, it is timeless piece.
Having said that, I'm really looking forward to discuss this book with you all.

message 7: by Fred (new)

Fred | 31 comments I really didn't enjoy this book, sadly! The character development was bad, the pacing was bad, it was too long (that's rich, I know, considering it's Dickens's shortest novel!). The only thing I liked about it was the first two chapters!

Taylor l The Literary Lady l (the_literarylady) | 6 comments This was my first experience reading a Dickens novel so i have nothing to compare it too but i couldn't put it down. I flew through this book. A few parts were just blah to me but overall i found it fasinating and sad. How Gradgrind stiffeled his childrens childhood and never let them express or use their imaginations! How he came to regret it in the end.

message 9: by Cosmic (last edited Feb 08, 2017 01:19AM) (new) - added it

Cosmic Arcata | 123 comments This is one of my favorite Dicken's books. This book influenced Tolstoy and was a slam against the educational system. An educational system that sets facts up on a pedestal over thinking and creativity. If you think about it, if facts were to reign man would never have invented the air plane and flown. To communicate with people we would have to have wires.

But because we can and should question facts we do fly and today we have cell phones.

We have two sets of children. One were given the facts but not taught how to think (except narrowly). The brother and sister lived a safe life within these facts but they couldn't be completely free. They had to operate within a very fine definition of social expectations. And maybe this is the point of a society that is tightly govern.

Sissy Jupe is exceptional. She doesn't know the conventions and so she is an easy target to be bullied on!

Today we see this kind of bullying taking place in the political spear. We have people that want others to accept things like global warming as fact even though the data was fudged by NASA.

But i bet money they are still teaching climate change as FACT in school.
(For one thing they can't print text books fast enough to keep up with what is current)

It would be better if they took a different approach and questioned the status quo

The sun is going to sleep.

When my son was 6 I got the best fortune cookie ever. It said, "Knowing and not doing is the same as not knowing."

This became the guiding light of my children's education. They focused on doing, not testing! As a result my kids have an unbeatable education in their field of engineering, because they started when they were three and wound their first wireless radio. From day one they were in an environment that they questioned and found answers and tested their answers.

I love Hard Times because it supports the child rather than the SYSTEM.

I just finished Dune. It had this quote about school.

Page 219 A thing to note about any espionage and our counter espionage school is the similar basic reaction pattern of all its graduates. Any enclosed discipline sets its stamp, it's pattern, upon its students. That pattern is susceptible to analysis and prediction.
Now motivational patterns are going to be similar among all espionage agents. That is to say: there will be certain types of motivational that are similar despite differing schools or opposed aims. You will study first how to separate this element for analysis- in the beginning, through interrogation patterns that betray the inner orientation of the interrogators, secondly, by close observation of language-thought orientation of those under analysis. You will find it fairly simple to determine the root of your subjects, if course, both through voice inflection and speech pattern."

School is a container to hold children. Depending on the type of container determines what use it will be to society later on. Maybe Dickens saw this when it came to the industrial revolution.

For further reading may i suggest these:
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

message 10: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina Ive | 67 comments I'm in book three now and finally it is moving faster. I found the first half of the book hard to get into, I would have whole paragraphs or sometimes a whole page where I would get to the end and have no idea what it was about. I would re-read it and it still wouldn't make any sense. But if you keep reading you eventually get the gist of it and is fine. Now I'm engrossed in what's going to happen to Louisa, the Whelp, Mrs Sparsit and Stephen Blackpool and Rachel.

Nente | 774 comments I'm halfway through. There's far, far less of the trademark Dickensian humour, but the social evils he's painting so vividly are present in many, many of his books.
The Hard Fact school (and school of thought, too) were quite a surprise to me. Are they an exaggeration or did anyone ever really bring up a child in that way? >:-(

message 12: by Nell (last edited Feb 12, 2017 08:59AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nell Beaudry (lightfoxing) "I love Hard Times because it supports the child rather than the SYSTEM."

This is what I loved about Hard Times. I think Dickens was particularly incisive about pointing out the failures of the school system, of expecting everybody to conform to the same type of "intelligence", and I felt very very badly for Louisa in particular. I read it for the first time in high school and I remember it felt like a revelation.

message 13: by Nente (last edited Feb 13, 2017 09:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nente | 774 comments Well, it seemed to me that it was too short. Dickens hadn't enough space to devote to setting up the intricate crisscross of all the plot threads and to giving everyone their just deserts. I'd especially have liked to see Mrs. Sparsit to get what was coming to her.

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Amy Eckert | 113 comments I'm still only at the beginning of the book, but I just had to say that Mr. Bounderby, for lack of a better, more mature word, is seriously creepy! UGH, when he asks Louisa for that kiss. This is an old man and a VERY young girl.

As a teacher, I like the commentary about education. I feel like even today, the government and those outside of education treat school like a business. That if you put the correct input into the heads of children, it will automatically yield results. I mean, in the school in which I teach, we have DATA charts which chart the "progress" of each student. It's so wrong! It's so unnatural! But, those decisions aren't made by people with a background in education, it's decided upon by the government.

Bobbie | 97 comments Just finished and really enjoyed most of the book. I did find much of it very slow moving. I especially felt sorry for Louisa and the way she was reared. I know that this was the point that Dickens was making. I wondered if this was based on fact at all, if there were really schools like this in England at that time. One complaint that I have is that Dickens took on several social issues but did not follow through with them all. He brought the work conditions of the "Hands" but never really went anywhere with that topic. This is certainly not my favorite Dickens novels but I did enjoy it as I got further along in it.

Robin P | 83 comments A more effective novel on factory workers and owners (and a much longer book) is Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. There's a BBC version you can find at your library or online.

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Pink | 6556 comments I've finished! After a rough start and spending most of the book rolling my eyes, I warmed up to it by the end. I can definitely see the similarities with North and South, which I still think is a far superior novel. I wonder what the first readers would have thought, as Dickens printed them back to back, when originally serialised.

Overall, I enjoyed the last part of this book, as it was more focused on the characters and less about social criticism. Everyone got their rewards, good or bad, depending on their character, which was a little annoying but expected. My favourite characters were Sissy, who was obviously the most insightful person, despite her lack of educations and supposed stupidity and Mr Gradgrind, who had a reform of character by the end. I thought both of these served their purpose in the story, but were also interesting and believable. I'll have to mull over my thoughts for a few days.

message 18: by Trudy (last edited Mar 06, 2017 08:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trudy Brasure | 34 comments I really enjoyed reading a shorter work of Dickens. I thought the social commentary boiled down to a warning that in the excitement of focusing on science and industry in that era, its vital to remember that humans are not machines or numbers, but individuals who need nurturing and care.
It's the lower classes--Cissy Jupe, Stephen Blackpool, and Rachel-- who understand what life is really about: love.
Oh! and I love Mrs. Sparsit! What a perfectly conniving, presumptuous old biddy. It was glorious to see her get taken down. The soaking-wet scene was fantastically described. Dickens at his best for descriptions and character revelation.
Overall, I liked this better than the over-rated Great Expectations.
And maybe even better than Little Dorrit and Bleak House, where I found the length of the novel sometimes tedious.

Connie D | 53 comments Nicole wrote: ""I love Hard Times because it supports the child rather than the SYSTEM."

This is what I loved about Hard Times. I think Dickens was particularly incisive about pointing out the failures of the sc..."

I definitely agree with you on this!

message 20: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Trudy, that's interesting you preferred this to some of his longer books, though I can see why a shorter text would be preferable, especially to cut down on some of his wordiness!

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Amy Eckert | 113 comments I'm glad people are still commenting on this. I'm doing three audiobooks right now, in addition to Hard Times, and Im only about half way through Hard Times.

message 22: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink | 6556 comments No problem Amy, comment in your own time and I'm sure others will still join in the discussion :)

Connie D | 53 comments Amy wrote: "I'm glad people are still commenting on this. I'm doing three audiobooks right now, in addition to Hard Times, and Im only about half way through Hard Times."

Amy, I'm a little less than halfway through also, and I still plan to keep discussing and reading comments/questions.

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Amy Eckert | 113 comments Great! Thanks! All I know is Mr. Bounderby is really disgusting.

Connie D | 53 comments I know I'm slow with finishing Hard Times, but I'm wondering if anyone else found Louisa's evolution from charming, curious girl to nearly catatonic young woman a logical result of Gradgrind's horrendous child-rearing and educational philosophy? Much as I hated Gradgrind's process, it didn't make sense to me that Tom and Sissy would be relatively unaffected and Louisa would be so extremely affected by it, especially since she had the company of Sissy and Tom throughout her childhood.

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