Hard Times | Sunday Observer

Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickens is set in a fictional manufacturing town in England during the period of industrialisation in the mid nineteenth century. It was first published as a book by Bradbury and Evans in 1854. The novel consists of three parts named Sowing, Reaping and Garnering.

The novel begins with Gradgrind, a businessman and governing official at a school giving a speech to a group of students on being rational and practical.

Gradgrind is the wrong person to be a governing official of a school because he is a cold and calculating businessman and Dickens criticises Gradgrind’s character through satire inherent in the tone.

Gradgrind fails to see the importance of balancing rationality and practicality with emotion and imagination, and coerces his daughter Louisa into marrying his business partner Bounderby who is the wrong man for her because they are not compatible. Bounderby is dishonest, unscrupulous and cruel and Louisa is unable to cope with her miserable life with him and almost succumbs to the seduction of Harthouse.

Louisa leaves Bounderby and returns to her father’s house and has a nervous breakdown. Louisa’s younger brother Tom lives a dissipated life and robs Bounderby’s bank.

Gradgrind realises that he made a terrible mistake by forcing Louisa to marry the wrong man Bounderwho was not compatible. Grandgrind also realises his mistake in the way he brought up his son Tom.

In the novel, Dickens emphasises the importance of balancing rationality and practicality with emotion and imagination through the portrayal of the tragic lives of both Louisa and Tom. Dickens also criticises the calculated and mercenary strategies of industrialisation.

Reviewed by Hannah George