Charles Dickens — Hard Times

Considering the mammoth size of some of Dickens’ other novels, it is rather surprising to say that least that Hard Times is so slim. It does pack quite a wallop, though it seems to lack some of the heart that characterizes the writing of, for example, Bleak House. I can’t tell if he’s conforming his style to his subject, but it doesn’t always work for me.

Hard Times is a satire of Utilitarianism, that philosophy that hard facts, statistics, science, and labor trump all else. Thrown into this is Thomas Gradgrind, M.P., a devoted practitioner, his children Louisa and Tom, raised in this environment, Josiah Bounderby, an awful “self-made man,” and Sissy Jupe, the daughter of a circus performer. The book chronicles the ill effects of this lack of fancy and imagination on the Gradgrind family, with the awful Bounderby and his housekeeper, the “lady” Mrs Sparsit lurking on the corners, threatening to ruin everything. Louisa is married off in a “business proposition” to Mr Bounderby and everything goes downhill from there…

Suffice to say there are few happy endings in Hard Times, and it’s a little bit one sided in that you can tell far too obviously the targets of Dickens’ ire. There are some wonderful bits of scathing, ironic writing, but as stated the heart just isn’t there. In Lousia he has managed to create a more complicated female character than he normally does, but of course there are no happy endings for her. Or for anyone, for that matter. Not in this day and age.


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Filed under Books, Review

One response to “Charles Dickens — Hard Times

  1. Pingback: 2010-’11: From Austerity to Collapse? « Reflections on a Revolution

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