Hard Times

Hard Times
Oxford University Press
Dickens, Charles
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Introduction, Hard Times


Hard Times was written to `shake some people in a terrible mistake of these days`, as Dickens put in a letter to Thomas Carlyle. The `terrible mistake` was the contemporary utilitarian philosophy, expounded in Hard Times (1854) as the Philosophy of Fact by the hard-headed disciplinarian Thomas Gradgrind. But the novel, Dickens`s shortest, is more than a polemical tract for the times; the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father is one of Dickens`s triumphs. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system. Yet even as the development of the story reflects Dickens`s growing pessimism about human nature and society, Hard Times marks his return to the theme which had made his early works so popular: the amusements of the people. Sleary`s circus represents Dickens`s most considered defence of the necessity of entertainment, and infuses the novel with the ebullient good humour...

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