Hard Times

By: Charles Dickens

The Main Characters

Thomas Gradgrind Is a retired merchant that is very wealthy. Mr. Gradgrind is also a man who only focuses on the cold hard facts and raises his children to not use their imagination or have feelings such as love.


Louisa, Mr. Gradgrind's daughter, is lost in life with her fathers only wanting her to know the cold hard facts. She later marries just to please her father, but later deeply regrets that decision.


Thomas Gradgrind, Jr., Mr. Gradgrind oldest son, he is embarrassed by his up bringing to much and becomes a very critical person. He works at Josiah Bounderby's bank. Tom also has a terrible gambling problem.


Josiah Bounderby, the man Louisa is married, very boastful and proud of his so called self made up bringing. He is the owner of a bank.


Stephen Blackpool is one of the many workers in the cities factories. He hates his personal life and wants to leave it behind and move to the country with the woman of his dreams, Rachael.


James Harthouse comes to town because he wants to become involved in politics and he thinks Mr. Gradgrind can help him get involved and wanted to seduce Louisa.

Setting

The novel Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, takes place in Coketown, England in the mid 1800's during a time when factories fill the air with heavy unsafe smoke and fill their working floors with unsafe working conditions.

Novel Summary

At the start of the novel the reader meets Thomas Gradgrind, a wealthy man, that believes that children should only be taught the cold hard facts and when his children use their imagination even a little he becomes enraged. After en-stilling this belief on his children, he plans a marriage for his daughter Louisa with Josiah Bounderby. After the marriage Tom, Louisa's bother, gets a job at Josiah's bank. During this time, the workers in the factories are trying to unionize so that they may receive better working conditions. But one man Stephen Blackpool refuses to join. Due to him not joining the union Mr. Gradgrind and Josiah want to use Stephen to "spy" on the union, but he also refuses that. Louisa respects Stephen for refusing to spy and tries to help him when he loses his job, but Stephen only takes two pounds. Tom also says he will help, he just has to wait outside the bank for then next couple of days. As Louisa helps Stephen, James Hearthouse comes to town wanting to become involved in politics but he falls in love with Louisa. After Stephen leaves Coketown, it is found that the bank has been robbed. Also Mr. Hearthouse professes his love for Louisa and Louisa finally feels what love is. But she now becomes very confused with these emotions that she has never felt before because of her father, so she talks o her father about them. Josiah then blames the robbery on Stephen and tells Louisa his wife that she must come home but Mr. Gridgrand says that she is going to stay at his house to rest, so Josiah leaves Louisa because she would not obey him. Once Louisa starts getting better she goes for a walk and discovers Stephen fallen in a mine shaft, that he fell in while traveling back to Coketown to clear his name. After Stephen's rescue he dies from his terrible injuries, but not before clearing his name. Once Stephen clears his name it is found that Tom robbed the bank to support his gambling problem. After hearing this Louisa realized that she needed to have the emotions that she suppressed for so long or she will slowly grow crazy until the day she dies.

Response

I really didn't enjoy reading this novel very much. This is do to the way it was written. It was a very detailed book which would get me lost and I would have to reread many parts of the novel so I could get back on track. Also some of the language was harder to understand but that is just how Charles Dickens writes.

One of the biggest roles in the novel was played by Louisa. She played a big role because at the end of the novel she finally found what she longed for in life. Do to the way she was raised she never showed any emotion or felt much feel until she met James Hearthouse, who falls for Louisa and tries to seduce her. After never feeling any emotion in her life Louisa grows faint and confused with what she is feeling for James and finally her father loosens up and accepts people using emotions and feeling love.

The main reoccurring symbol in this novel was emotion and how they play such a big role into human life. This symbol came up many times in the book. For example one of the first times was when Mr. Gradgrind cam home and found his children sneaking a peak at the circus. Seeing this Mr. Gridgrand became very angry because he did not want his children using their imagination because it was not in his philosophical beliefs. Another time this came up was when Louisa found out that she was to be married to Josiah, whom she didn't want to marry, but because of her upbringing she figured it would please her father and she had never known what love felt like.

I personally would not go around recommending this novel to people because I feel the novel is way to long for the point it has to make. Also I am a fan of more modern writing styles, that aren't as detailed and complexly written. Also this novel was complex in the way it was written, three different books made it harder to follow because the sections tended to jump around a lot.

References

"Louisa Gradgrind" Google.com, March 31, 2013

"Coketown England" Google.com, March 31, 2013

"Coketown England" Google.com, March 31, 2013

Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960. Print