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Hard Times (Enriched Classics) Mass Market Paperback – Special Edition, January 1, 2007
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About the Author
Charles Dickens (1821-1870) used his fiction to criticize the injustices of his time, especially the brutal treatment of the poor. He is also the author of Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. He was born in Portsmouth, England.
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Top customer reviews
So, if you're looking for a classic, check out this book!
Representing the bourgeois managing class there are two men: Thomas Gradgrind and Josiah Bounderby. Gradgrind, an educator-turned-politician, is a fanatical proponent of a utilitarian philosophy which demands nothing but "facts," and abjures all art and sentiment. He attempts to raise his children as heartless automata whose only goal is the amassing of wealth.
Josiah Bounderby is a banker and mill owner who has constructed around himself the myth of the "self-made man." Insisting that he was born in a ditch and abandoned to his own devices as a young child, Bounderby's clear message is "I made it without anyone else's help or compassion, so don't expect any from me."
Among the characters from the lower classes are Sissy Jupe, the abandoned daughter of a circus performer, and Stephen Blackpool, a mill worker who must bear the added burden of having an alcoholic vagrant for a wife. Both Jupe and Blackpool are rich in the traits that their social betters lack: compassion, charity, and self-sacrifice.
Hard Times has the elements of a social reform novel, but that doesn't appear to be its purpose. We never set foot inside a mill, and there is no description of working conditions, harsh or otherwise. The efforts of the workers to unionize are even portrayed in a negative light. Instead of focusing on the symptoms of injustice, Dickens attacks what he must consider the cause: the flawed and hypocritical philosophy of utilitarianism which makes a virtue of selfishness and excuses callous indifference to the sufferings of others.
Hard Times is not without touches of humor, but on the whole it is darker than most of Dickens's works. There are the usual quirky and endearing characters, but a tone of tragedy predominates.