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Hard Times--Dickens's shortest novel and one of his major triumphs--tells the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father.
Charles Dickens: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
Hard Times: For These Times
Appendix A: The Composition of the Novel
1. Household Words Partners' Agreement
2. Announcements in Household Words
3. Dickens's Working Memoranda
4. Mentions in Dickens's Letters
Appendix B: Contemporary Reviews of the Novel
1. Athanaeum (12 August 1854)
2. Examiner (9 September 1854)
3. Gentleman's Magazine (September 1854)
4. British Quarterly Review (October 1854)
5. Rambler (October 1854)
6. South London Athanaeum and Institution Magazine (October 1854)
7. Westminster Review (October 1854)
8. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (April 1855)
Appendix C: On Industrialization - Commentary
1a. Thomas Carlyle, "Signs of the Times," Edinburgh Review (June 1829)
1b. Thomas Carlyle, Chartism (1839)
1c. Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present (1843)
2. Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of Manufactures (1836)
3. P. Gaskell, Artisans and Machinery (1836)
4a. J.S. Mill, "Bentham," London and Westminster Reveiw (August 1838)
4b. J.S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848)
5. Arthur Helps, The Claims of Labour (1844)
6. Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1845)
7. Charles Dickens, "On Strike," Household Words (11 February 1854)
8. Henry Morley, "Ground in the Mill," Household Words (22 April 1854)
9. Harriet Martineau, The Factory Controversy: A Warning Against Meddling Legislation (1855)
10. W.B. Hodgson, "On the Importance of the Study of Economic Science as a Branch of Education for all Classes," Lectures in Education Delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1855)
11. John Ruskin, "Unto This Last," Cornhill Magazine (August 1860)
Appendix D: On Industrialization - Fiction
1. Harriet Martineau, A Manchester Strike (Illustrations of Political Economy No. 7) (1832)
2. Frances Trollope, Life and Adventures of Michael Armstrong (1840)
3. "Charlotte Elizabeth," Helen Fleetwood (1841)
4. Elizabeth Stone, William Langshawe, the Cotton Lord (1842)
5a. Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby (1844) (i)
5b. Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby (1844) (ii)
5c. Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil (1845)
6a. Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848) (i)
6b. Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848) (ii)
6c. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1855)
7. Charlotte Bronte, Shirley (1849)
8a. Charles Kingsley, Yeast (1850)
8b. Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke (1850)
9. Fanny Mayne, Jane Rutherford, or The Miners' Strike (1854)
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 Dickens primarily to be an activist? A social critic? A humor writer?
2. Describe the relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind. Why is Mr. Gradgrind's philosophy lost on Mrs. Gradgrind? What accounts for her total lack of understanding?
3. In the first few words of Hard Times, in the title to the first book, "Sowing, " there is a biblical allusion. Hard Times ends with another biblical allusion in the penultimate paragraph, where Dickens refers to the "Writing on the Wall." Biblical references are made throughout the novel, and Christian sentiment is appealed to constantly. How important are Christian underpinnings to Dickens's moral message? Do Dickens's criticisms and appeals go beyond the religious? If so, what other moral ideals are put forth in Hard Times, and what are their implications?
4. Coketown is, of course, a wholly fictitious city. However, it is a microcosm of England during the time of the Industrial Revolution and is modeled on cities that existed at the time. What are the problems of Coketown, and what are the causes of these problems? As a community, does Coketown accurately or inaccurately portray the ills of nineteenth-century English industrial cities? Does the creation of this fictitious town make Dickens's satire more effective than if he were to situate it in a real city? Why?
5. Since theconditions of life in English factory towns have changed, and many years have passed since the writing of Hard Times, what can be said to be the book's lasting value? Is it primarily historical, painting a picture of the way life was at one time? Is it moral or philosophical? Are the aspects of the novel that were important at the time of its publication still the ones that are valued today?
6. Are Rachael and Stephen realistic characters, even in the context of a satirical novel? What purpose do they serve to the novel as a whole, and which characters are they most starkly contrasted with? How does the scene of Stephen's death stand out in the novel? How is it important to the overarching themes Dickens is trying to convey?
Posted October 31, 2000
Charles Dickens : Hard Times Dickens Hard Times was written for a magazine originally called Household Words and it was published in 1850. It is set at the time of Dickens in an industrial town called Coketown. There are many plots and sub-plots, most of which all join along the way especially towards the end of the novel. The main plot however follows the school. Here are the basic characters in the story: v There is a school called Gradgrind School the master of which is Mr. M¿Choakumchild. This school believes and uses utilitarianism as a base for education. v Thomas Gradgrind works in the school as a teacher and it is his job to force facts into children. v His two children, Louisa and Tom have been brought up in this system all their lives. v Josiah Bounderby is a self-Made man, and he owns a mill, a Bank and he is a businessman, later on in the novel, he marries Louisa. v Bitzer is the bright boy in the Gradgrind School. He grows up to work for Mr. Gradgrind v Sissy Jupe, in educable in Mr. Gradgrind¿s opinion, and she had something different about her that Mr. Gradgrind cannot measure. She is the daughter of a circus clown. v Mr. Sleary owns Sleary¿s riding school, father to Sissy Jupe and performs in a circus. v Mrs. Sparsit, she is a widow and a housewife for Mr. Bounderby. She has come down in society. v Stephen Blackpool works for Mr. Bounderby in his mill. v Rachel also works for Mr. Bounderby and she is Blackpool¿s best friend. v Mrs. Pegler visits Coketown every year. v James Harthouse visits Coketown to make alliance with Mr. Bounderby to help him become a politician. The opening section of the book is set in the classroom with Mr. Gradgrind filling children with facts. The opening sentences read, ¿Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts¿ This really sets the scene for the whole book, this is also the first sign of utilitarianism. The scene is then described as plain, bare and monotonous. The speaker (Mr. Gradgrind) is even described as having a square forefinger and a square wall of a forehead. Everything is hard, cold and square. Everything can be calculated, such as a square had four equal sides, four corners etc¿ Even from this early in the novel you can tell that there is something wrong with the system. The second chapter is called ¿Murdering the innocents,¿ I think that this suggests that Mr. Gradgrind is killing the children, not physically, but mentally, he is taking away what makes them people, their individuality, the children are becoming more like robots. The words Dickens uses to describe Mr. Gradgrind are all very straightforward, very plain; this is a reflection of himself. Mr. Gradgrind when talking, he always talks about measuring and weighing. The children are then describes as Pitchers (large Jugs) ready to be filled full of facts. Sissy Jupe and Bitzer are seen in the same ray of light in the classroom, but whereas the light makes Sissy look colourful and bright, it makes Bitzer look pale and white, in fact that Dickens says that he is so pale that if he bled he would probably bleed white. Sissy Jupe is seen in Mr. Gradgrind¿s eyes as being in educable, for example in the second chapter Sissy, who has spent all her life with horses and looking after them cannot define a horse, where as Bitzer can perfectly in Mr. Gradgrind¿s eyes here is Bitzer¿s definition of a horse: ¿Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eyeteeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with Iron. Age known by marks in mouth.¿ What Mr. Gradgrind is trying to do is educate his pupils, but what really is happening is that he is being educated himself. By writing this book, I think Dickens is trying to get across what he thinks about the education system. First of all, he explores utilitarianism, and then he explores what are the consequences this sWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2010
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