Hard Times (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a ...
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Hard Times (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

 

Set amid smokestacks and factories, Charles Dickens’s Hard Times is a blistering portrait of Victorian England as it struggles with the massive economic turmoil brought on by the Industrial Revolution.

Championing the mind-numbing materialism of the period is Thomas Gradgrind, one of Dickens’s most vivid characters. He opens the novel by arguing that boys and girls should be taught "nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Forbidding the development of imagination, Gradgrind is ultimately forced to confront the results of his philosophy—his own daughter’s terrible unhappiness.

Full of suspense, humor, and tenderness, Hard Times is a brilliant defense of art in an age of mechanism.

Karen Odden received her Ph.D. from New York University, where she did her dissertation on Victorian literature. Most recently a lecturer at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she is now a freelance writer and lives in Arizona.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593081560
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 68,980
  • Product dimensions: 7.92 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Dickens
Karen Odden received her Ph.D. from New York University, where she did her dissertation on Victorian literature. Most recently a lecturer at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she is now a freelance writer and lives in Arizona.

Biography

Born on February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second of eight children in a family burdened with financial troubles. Despite difficult early years, he became the most successful British writer of the Victorian age.

In 1824, young Charles was withdrawn from school and forced to work at a boot-blacking factory when his improvident father, accompanied by his mother and siblings, was sentenced to three months in a debtor's prison. Once they were released, Charles attended a private school for three years. The young man then became a solicitor's clerk, mastered shorthand, and before long was employed as a Parliamentary reporter. When he was in his early twenties, Dickens began to publish stories and sketches of London life in a variety of periodicals.

It was the publication of Pickwick Papers (1836-1837) that catapulted the twenty-five-year-old author to national renown. Dickens wrote with unequaled speed and often worked on several novels at a time, publishing them first in monthly installments and then as books. His early novels Oliver Twist (1837-1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841), and A Christmas Carol (1843) solidified his enormous, ongoing popularity. As Dickens matured, his social criticism became increasingly biting, his humor dark, and his view of poverty darker still. David Copperfield (1849-1850), Bleak House (1852-1853), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-1861), and Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865) are the great works of his masterful and prolific period.

In 1858 Dickens's twenty-three-year marriage to Catherine Hogarth dissolved when he fell in love with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. The last years of his life were filled with intense activity: writing, managing amateur theatricals, and undertaking several reading tours that reinforced the public's favorable view of his work but took an enormous toll on his health. Working feverishly to the last, Dickens collapsed and died on June 8, 1870, leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood uncompleted.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of David Copperfield.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Charles John Huffam Dickens (full name) "Boz" (pen name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1812
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portsmouth, England
    1. Date of Death:
      June 18, 1870
    2. Place of Death:
      Gad's Hill, Kent, England

Read an Excerpt

From Karen Odden's Introduction to Hard Times

Hard Times departs from the patterns in these novels in two important respects. First, whereas Gaskell and Disraeli focus on the rifts between poor and wealthy and worker and master, in Hard Times these rifts are mirrored by a series of other rifts-between Fancy and Fact, parents and children, husbands and wives, men and women, healthy and disabled, religion and science, literate and nonliterate. Partly because of these multiple binary oppositions, Hard Times, I believe, is less about offering a solution to a particular conflict and more about dramatizing the need for a new mode of thinking altogether.

A second important difference between Hard Times and other industrial novels is that the romance plot is notably absent from Dickens's novel. Hard Times draws on a range of genres-melodrama, pantomime, eighteenth-century novels of instruction, the industrial novel, Renaissance poetry, and the bildungsroman; but it forestalls every possible romance. The two heroines Sissy and Rachael never marry within the main action of the novel; Tom and James never marry; Stephen marries a woman who is mad or an alcoholic or both; the Gradgrind marriage is based on fear and contempt; Louisa's marriage to Bounderby is loveless and expedient. In a different novel, Louisa's love might transform Bounderby, or Tom might marry Sissy and be reformed. (Significantly, the 1854 stage adaptation of Hard Times butchered the ending: Rachael marries Stephen, and Louisa and Bounderby are reconciled.) This very absence of a successful, heartwarming romance suggests that Dickens is trying to get beyond the symbolically satisfying but ultimately false way in which literature settles differences.

Instead of a romance, Dickens offers a highly moralized theory that is articulated by three men, who, among them, represent at least two classes and four professions. Sleary is a master of ceremonies for a circus; Gradgrind is a utilitarian educator and Member of Parliament; the factory worker Stephen Blackpool is a Christ figure, who rises up from Old Hell Shaft after several days. These men all explain that rifts are bridged through the values of compassion, humor, sympathetic understanding, tenderness, and a desire to compromise and forge alliances rather than engage in power struggles that only ratchet up the sense of difference. These three offer versions of themes that Dickens had set forth previously in other works. During his brief stint as editor of the Daily News in 1845, he wrote in his Address to the Public that "it will be no part of our function to widen any breach that may unhappily subsist, or may arise, between Employer and Employed; but it will rather be our effort to show their true relations, their mutual dependence, and their mutual power of adding to the sum of general happiness and prosperity" (quoted in Ackroyd, p. 487). Nine years later, in an essay on the Preston strike for the February 11, 1854, issue of Household Words, his concerns and terms are remarkably similar: "Into the relations between employers and employed, as into all the relations of this life, there must enter something of feeling and sentiment; something of mutual explanation, forbearance, and consideration. . . . Otherwise those relations are wrong and rotten to the core and will never bear sound fruit" ("On Strike," p. 286).

Sleary, who is the representative of Fancy but who works very hard in the circus, insists on a balance among learning, working, and amusement. He delivers his advice to Gradgrind near the very end of the novel: "People mutht be amuthed. They can't be alwayth a learning, nor yet they can't be alwayth a working, they an't made for it. You mutht have uth, Thquire. Do the withe thing and the kind thing too, and make the betht of uth; not the wurtht!" This is a point that Dickens made in an early pamphlet, Sunday Under Three Heads, which defended the rights of the lower and middle classes to pleasurable activities on their day off. (He also made this point in the Address to the Reader for Household Words in 1852.) With Sleary's mention of "betht" (best) and "wurtht" (worst), we see the language of binary oppositions that has governed this novel and that anticipates the opening of A Tale of Two Cities.

The second moralizer is Gradgrind, who has had his eyes opened by Louisa's plight, and who pleads with Bounderby in terms of two men "meet[ing]" and of "better" rather than "best": "I would suggest to you, that—that if you would kindly meet me in a timely endeavour to leave her to her better nature for a while—and to encourage it to develop itself by tenderness and consideration—it—it would be the better for the happiness of all of us" (my emphases). The third spokesman is Stephen Blackpool, who at first contends, rather defensively, that he "canna think the fawt is aw wi' us." Later, Rachael speaks up for Stephen and expresses how impossible it is to be a man who refuses to participate in the binary structure.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 61 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great

    Hard Times is probably Dickens' most underrated novel. It is a good protest against conditions and attitudes during the Victorian period however its main focus is not on the working class, although it seems to be with the first chapters. It is a book everyone interested in Victorian literature - and British literature in general - should read. It has an unbelievable writing style.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Brilliant

    Absolutely Wonderful! This book is so fascinating and remarkable! I thought it extremely educational and interesting at the same time. I would read it again and I am not one to read books more than once! Bravo Dickens!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2002

    Thank you for spoiling everything!

    Thank you to the nimrod who, in a very self-aggrandizing sort of way, just gave away the entire PLOT to Hard Times. First of all, I've already read the book so your forsoothly monologue didn't tell me anything I didn't already know (and I have written a few papers on the book) and second of all, who's actually going to want to go out and buy the book now? THINK next time before you post! Okay? If people want the Cliffs Notes version, they can purchase it at Barnes & Noble!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This truly one of dickens most overlooked works. It is classic i

    This truly one of dickens most overlooked works. It is classic in its depiction of the effects, good and bad, of industrialization on the people of Victorian England. From a teacher's perspective, this book could be used in just about any course as a across curriculum reading. A good read; classic Dickens!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2011

    Dull

    I felt it would be unfair to give this book only one star, since it is a classic. But, considering how painful it was to get through with the endless narration, incomprehensible accents of certain people, and run-on sentences, I've decided to shy away from the opinions of literary scholars and voice my own opinion. And the fact that it was terribly boring leaves me with no guilt in giving Hard Times a poor rating.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2010

    Great Dickens

    I love all of Dickens's novels, and while this falls a bit short when compared to Great Expectations or David Copperfield, it is well worth reading. Character development leaves a bit to be desired in that, in order to explore his ideas about human development and politics, some of his characters are a bit caricaturish. Nonetheless, this is a great book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    This is a great book. I am a big fan of Charles Dickens, and I would recommend any of his books.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Boring.

    Nothing much happened, just a lot of talking.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    Wolvine

    I was aware about the grey ting, but dont kniw what he said will you tell me?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    Loathe

    Hisses slowly getting up. He glared hatefully. Take them and go. Dissipears.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2012

    Svarton

    *squawks,then drops a stink bomb on megatron. xD*

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2012

    Sonicfeet

    *pokes arcee*

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    Nightbird rper

    This is so wierd...i post more than one post! XD

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  • Posted May 23, 2012

    Hey. It's Dickens. Of course it's good.

    Not Dickens' best. Lots of loose ends, especially in modern editions. Also not quite the harangue on England's unjust social conditions it's often said to be. Nonetheless, Dickens is a great story teller and this fits that mold. Plus it's short by his standards.

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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Review

    Charles Dickens presents one of his more simplistic novels here but it is a worthwhile read about society commentary and satire nonetheless.

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    Interesting

    This book is about a man who, in an effort to save his children and others from the mistake of being guided (misguided) by emotion, taste and other intangibles, has a school to educate people to focus on the tangible- the factual- and to be guided by reason.

    There are several story lines, and many compelling characters. I believe, the premise of the book is that one can make errors in judgement as well and easily by applying to reason as to emotion.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    A novel worthy of our utmost approbation.

    When she was half-a-dozen years younger, Louisa had been overheard to begin a conversation with her brother one day, by saying, ¿Tom, I wonder¿¿upon which Mr. Gradgrind, who was the person overhearing, stepped forth into the light, and said, ¿Louisa, never wonder!¿ 'pg. 52' It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what the engine will do. But, not all the calculators of the National Debt can tell me the capacity for good or evil, for love or hatred, for patriotism or discontent, for the decomposition of virtue into vice, or the reverse, at any single moment in the soul of one of these its quiet servants, with the composed faces and the regulated actions. There is no mystery in it. There is an unfathomable mystery in the meanest of them, forever¿ supposing we were to reserve our arithmetic for material objects, and to govern these awful unknown quantities by other means! 'pg. 71' The above excerpts perfectly exemplify the two most prominent themes in Hard Times: the importance of imagination and compassion. In the very first page, we are introduced to Mr. Gradgrind¿s morbid philosophy, which seeks to teach children nothing but facts, to live one¿s life based on reason and exact calculations, and to abstain from anything that approaches Fancy. Mr. Gradgrind¿s name implies his theory, for he veritably grinds the imagination out of his children, turning them into morose machine-like vessels full of facts. It seems Gradgrind can put anything into a tabular statement or answer any question, whether it would be wiser to answer with one¿s heart or not, mathematically. Consequently, his children are taught to do the same. Neither knowing how to navigate life with their heart, they both fall into terrible situations. They cannot feel. They are deadened, lifeless textbooks. However, Louisa¿s soul is under much more constraint than is Tom¿s. She often daydreams and is aware of what her father¿s philosophy destroyed in her infancy. She is compassionate despite her upbringing and cares much for her brother. But the attention and consideration she gives her brother is unrequited. The Gradgrind household is regulated by facts. Coketown is regulated by facts. The workers, called ¿Hands¿, are as apathetic and gloomy as the incessant trails of smoke that emanate from the factory chimneys. Their imaginations have also been stifled. The Coketown magnates are only concerned with monetary gains, and so measure all things with their avarice. The Hands are nearly indistinguishable from the machinery. They are machinery! Each passage pertaining to Coketown adequately and beautifully illustrates how suffocating this industrialized town is, where the inhabitants are only to work and who have no creative outlet or moment of respite. Hard Times states that we cannot govern people with numbers alone. They cannot be regulated by Gradgrind¿s facts, nor are the lower class lazy, ungrateful scum as the self-made man Bounderby would have us believe. People need imaginative stimuli to escape the dreary, monotonous reality of everyday life and their ¿owners¿ need be as concerned about their workers¿ well-being as they are their profits. Yes, Dickens¿ plotting is exact and his characters are exaggerated, but that¿s what I love about his novels. Yes, the villains receive their comeuppance in the end and the heroes and heroines shine as brightly as halos, but this is also something I love about Dickens. I would also like to bring attention to another aspect of Hard Times, and all other Dickens novels, and that is the language. I love the language in this book. It took me twice as long to read this book as it should have and that¿s because I couldn¿t persuade myself to move on from certain passages. I actually read every chapter twice and some paragraphs I cannot count the number of times I read. I loved this book. If you have the faintest interest in classical literature, you¿ll love this book. I could do nothing after reading this book but sig

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    Good read

    The back of the book says that Thomas Gradgrind is one of Dicken's most vivid characters. I'd have to disagree and wouldn't even call him the most vivid character of the book. It was a little slow at times but picks up at the end.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2006

    HARD TIMES

    Hard Times by Charles Dickens is a timeless novel, that¿s every message rings true to today. Dickens portrays through the characters in the Gradgrind family the importance of being free to create one¿s own person through imagination. At the commencement of the novel Dickens illustrates a cold, strict, sparse classroom as Mr. Gradgrind explains the importance of only Facts in ones life. This serious and anxious tone is carried throughout the novel, as the Gradgrinds mature and the way of life in Coketown is questioned. Then, the character of Bounderby is introduced as a very narcissistic man who has ¿risen¿ form the depths of society to become very successful and a family friend of the Gradgrinds, who has set his eye on the eldest daughter Louisa. However, due to her father¿s incessant pressure she tries to rebel, as anyone would, but isn¿t successful and marries Bounderby. Meanwhile, a student at the school where Gradgrind teaches his ¿philosophy¿ is abandoned by her circus performing father, who wants her to have a good education and life. She, Sissy Jupe, is then taken under the wing of Gradgrind and becomes part of the family, who later proves to be the change they need to fix their broken family. As the story unfolds these main characters encounter many conflicts as the result of this flawed ¿Facts only¿ philosophy. Through logic the reader can deduce that the message pertains to the nurturing of ones imagination. This is the reason why students read Hard Times in school, students can relate to the feeling of being stifled by facts, yet it¿s imperative for them to know that the final product of being content with ones-self is the most important.

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