The shortest of Charles Dickens’s novels, Hard Times is also his most pointed and impassioned satire of social injustice.
Set in Coketown, a fictional industrial town in the north of England, Hard Times was born of its author’s indignation at the soul-crushing conditions of the industrial age, and yet it vibrantly transcends the stock situations and polemical weaknesses typical of social protest fiction of the time. The indelible characters—Mr. Gradgrind, whose utilitarian educational philosophy emotionally cripples his own children; the hypocritical factory owner Josiah Bounderby; Stephen Blackpool, an honest worker wrongly accused of a crime; and Sissy Jupe, a circus performer whose father abandons her to what he hopes is a better life—all come alive in classic Dickensian fashion, and contribute to a satiric vision of society tempered equally by righteous anger and compassionate humanity.
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The One Thing Needful
“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. This is...
1. Did Dickens have a clear purpose in writing Hard Times? Was Hard Times primarily an exhortation to solve the problems faced by
nineteenth-century England, or was his subject matter merely a vehicle that allowed him to write a humorous story using the familiar character types of his day? Do you consider...