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In Dickens’s pointed novel of social critique, the forces of industrialization and mechanization make it difficult to feel emotions like love and joy. In the face of such forces, it is difficult to feel human at all. Thomas Gradgrind, a wealthy man living in an industrial town, has raised his two oldest children Tom and Louisa according to principles of rationalism and pragmatism. This upbringing has led Louisa into an emotionless, unsatisfying marriage, while Tom has embraced a dissipated life of careless hedonism. Meanwhile, the workers who labor in the factories provide an important contrast to the affluent Gradgrind family. The impoverished worker Stephen Blackpool exists on the lowest rung of the social ladder, and he too is trapped in an awful marriage. But when a corrupt union spokesman tries to manipulate the workers, it is Stephen who maintains his integrity, and Louisa notices and is impressed by his courage. Though fundamentally good people, Louisa and Stephen are each victims of circumstance and of their impersonal society. The characters attempt to connect with each other in meaningful ways, but they must overcome the hard times that have fallen on all, rich and poor alike.
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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was uniquely successful as a writer during his lifetime, enjoying huge followings from readers and audiences in England and America. When, early in life, sudden misfortune sent his family into extreme poverty, the young Charles was sent to work in a factory. Never forgetting this childhood misery, Dickens wrote often in later life about the plights of the working poor. As a young man he became a law clerk and stenographer, moving into journalism in the 1830s. Dickens's early journalistic sketches formed the basis for his first literary works. With the 1836 serialized publication of The Pickwick Papers, his unparalleled success as an author began. Dickens went on to write such famous novels as David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Barnaby Rudge, Hard Times, and Bleak House, with all of his works remaining in print to this day.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for ...Back to top
Ratings for 'Hard Times' by Dickens, Charles