Hard Times

by Charles Dickens

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Moral Degradation And The Flaws Of Utilitarianism Are The Main Themes Of The Tenth Novel By Charles Dickens. Download Hard Times, READ online FREE or buy:

Book the First. SOWING


Book the Second. REAPING

Book the Third. GARNERING

This monumental book first saw the light of day back in 1854. This is the 10th novel in the legendary Charles Dickens’s roster. As always, the master talks about the flaws of the British society and shares his own thoughts and ideas about the social/moral/economic state of things in the 19th century. Dickens is known for being a great satiric.

He uses his exceptional writing skills and sense of humor to create just the right “field” for discussing the most important aspect of any society. Hard Times is quite a peculiar novel. First of all, it’s the shortest one by Dickens (it’s about 1/4th of the books that came out after/before). Plus, this book has no pictures and not even a preface, which is rather strange for the legendary author.

Furthermore, this is the only novel by the famed writer that doesn’t include any scenes in the capital of the UK. The tale is set in a fictitious town that resembles numerous English and European towns. Dickens decided to write Hard Times at a time when his periodical’s sales were going down. He knew that if he delivered a masterpiece in a serialized form, everything would change for the better. And he was right!

Hard Times Summary

It’s a known fact that Charles Dickens was a very religious man and that he spoke (and, obviously, wrote) a lot about faith, devotion, resurrection, and devotion. Faith is one of the central themes in any of his books. This novel consists of three huge chapters (books, to be exact) and they are titled according to Galatians 6:7.

“Sowing” is the title of the 1st book, while the 2nd and the 3rd one are titled “Reaping” and “Garnering”. As mentioned above, the story is focused on a tiny industrial town and the people that have been living in it for their whole lives. Nothing exciting ever happens there, and the locals are used to the quiet and slow atmosphere of Coketown.

The novel opens with a scene set in the local school with Mr. Gradgrind, an overzealous and overachieving man. He’s the Superintendent and dreams of creating his own empire one day. A big believer in the Utilitarian mottos, he follows its ideas blindly. Yet, when he witnesses his kids fall into despair, he abandons his beliefs.

The Utilitarians Vs Charles Dickens

When Dickens was working on the concept of Hard Times, this philosophy was very popular in the elite social circles. It was focused mainly on making the lives of the honest and hard-working citizens as tough and confusing as possible. Dickens was one of the biggest opponents of this movement and saw its destructive perspectives.

It made its way into the English schools and the industrial routine. Combined with extreme capitalism, it was one of the most dangerous philosophies in history. Dickens used this novel to share his opinion about Utilitarianism with the world and to warn it.

Social Inequality And Other Challenges

He claimed that these “perverted values” created a huge gap, a mighty divide between the wealthy mill owners and the regular citizens who had to work hard just to put some food on the table. The Industrial Revolution was a necessary step towards greatness, but it ruined numerous lives and put society on the brink of destruction.

Overall, the Victorian Era is a very turbulent one, and writers like Dickens knew they had to speak up loudly in order to prevent a catastrophe. In the master’s eyes, the followers of the vile philosophy were just a bunch of “mathematicians” who knew numbers and figures on the board – nothing else. Mr. Gradgrind, the central character of this story, was only fascinated by facts and numbers.

Working conditions were drastic in the early XIX century and Dickens had been to several factories in England. The man was terrified by the environment in which the poor folks had to work in and vowed to do something about it.

As a teenage boy, Charles had to go through something similar, and that is why he used his influence as a writer, life experiences and bright mind to lend a helping hand to those who had to labor in terrifying conditions.

Hard Times Themes

Mr. Bounderby is the main antagonist of this story and Dickens did everything in his power to show the readers what the ideas of Utilitarianism can do to a man. He had no moral limits and was ready to suffocate his workers just to make more profit. He was the antihero of his time, the monster that Dickens tried to defeat with his words.

The confrontation between Mr. Gradgrind’s teachings, his ideals and his morals and Sissy, the local circus owner’s kid, depicts the two different ways of living in the Victorian Era. While the man demands her to remember all the mathematical formulas and learn about analysis, all she ever wants to do is amuse people and have some fun.

The Concept Of Moral Degradation

She constantly fails at remembering all that complex stuff that they teach at the school, but is, otherwise, quite a gifted girl. Tom, the Superintendent’s son, hates his father’s ideas and despises everything he does. So, he turns into a thug, a thief, and a low-life gambler.

Louisa, in turn (the man’s daughter), shuts down all of her emotions and becomes a soulless human being. Even as a little kid, she never knew how to be happy. Eventually, she marries a “suitable man” and starts her own family, but that doesn’t bring her joy.

Dickens describes the rich and influential people in Hard Times as a group of morally corrupt and disgusting individuals. Bounderby doesn’t want to concern himself with any moral obligations and fires one of his most loyal workers just for the heck of it.

At the same time, the man is afraid to speak the truth about his own childhood and conceals true facts about it every way he can. The big boss fabricates every fact about his years as a child/teenager, but it all comes out at the end of the tale.

The True Heroes By Charles Dickens

Blackpool, the man the monster fires, is an underprivileged worker, a poor man. Yet, he always keeps his promises and has respect for people around him. In that regard, he’s very similar to Sissy, the girl who doesn’t want to become a part of the Utilitarian way of thinking and turn into another heartless machine.

These two are the driving force behind Hard Times, the people that Dickens wants to see prosper and flourish. Yes, life isn’t easy for them, and they have to overcome numerous obstacles on their way to happiness, but their path is the righteous one.

Social class has a huge impact on a man/woman’s life and his/her morality. Dickens deliberately turned all of his rich characters into disgusting monsters to show that admirable qualities such as honesty and compassion are only available to the hard workers.

Decent Human Beings No Matter What

These people are desperate and have to be resilient on every step of the way. However, in the eyes of Charles Dickens and God himself, they are worth more than all the rich folks combined. Mr. Bounderby refuses to admit that he’s a monster and keeps neglecting the horrible conditions that his workers have to deal with.

Tom spends his sister’s wealth the way he pleases and even frames an innocent person for his own crimes. He’s a lying, cunning lad who doesn’t care about anybody else but himself. He points his finger at Blackpool and claims that he robbed the bank, but the poor man refuses to run away and hide. He goes back to the town to prove his innocence and to clear his good name.

Some people criticized Dickens for painting a very black-and-white picture. Obviously, not all the rich people were bad and not all the poor laborers were good. Yet, his message was very strong and the readers appreciated the writer’s honesty and passion for bringing the truth to the public and doing something to right the wrongs of others.

A Hard Times Movie

This is a very difficult novel for adaptations, but there are some that are most definitely worth your while. The very first silent movie came out in 1915. In 1988, quite a unique adaptation hit the theaters. A Portuguese visionary shot his own version of the events in black and white.

BBC Radio made two adaptations – one in 1998, and one in 2007. As a mini-series, Hard Times was first released in 1977. The movie cast included Mr. Patrick Allen. Another one became available in 1994.


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