Hard Times is a classic fiction first published in 1854. Initially, it was a series in Charles Dickens’s weekly publication, Household Words, and there were twenty weekly serials before he published the entire novel. Charles split the book into three parts, each sharing great lessons to the readers. Well, it is only Charles who can project societal issues of the day and connect them to the biblical concept “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). The story of the book revolves around the main protagonist Mr Gradgrind and his beliefs.
Mr Gradgrind was into profitable enterprises. He believed in cold facts and numbers instead of sentiments and humanity. On this, Charles Dickens said, “My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else”. Charles was always a supporter of children’s rights and education along with societal reforms. The view of society in his eyes is a lot different from what we see.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7th, 1812, to a middle-class family. He left his studies at a very early age. Even without formal education, Charles always enjoyed and loved reading. He edited a weekly journal for almost 20 years while writing novels, novellas, and short stories. Indeed, he was a great writer and a social critic and was known as the greatest novelist in the Victorian era by many people.
Many people state that Charles was not only a legendry writer but a great mimic too. He knew how to captivate the attention of the audience through his words, either written or spoken. Shakespeare’s works greatly influenced Charles Dickens, who always sang praises for him. In the end, even his biographer Claire Tomalin regarded him as “the greatest creator of character in English fiction after Shakespeare.”
In Hard Times, Charles created each character with great thoughts. The main characters of the story are:
Mr Gradgrind – He is the protagonist and the superintendent of the school. In all three parts of the book, Mr Gradgrind shows his beliefs with pride and authority.
Mr Bounderby – He represents all the flaws a man can have. Apart from being a fraud, liar, insensitive and self-centred, he also married Louisa- a girl 30 years younger than him.
Louisa – Daughter of Mr Gradgrind. She faced suppression from the hands of her own family, which led her to a miserable life. Later in the novel, she corrected the ways and beliefs of her father.
Sissy Jupe – Sissy represents the character of a game-changer. She showcases the qualities and beliefs of an ideal person. She represents what society needs at the time of adversity and downfall.
Tom – Tom is a brat and a very self-centred person. He had a close bond with his sister, and still, when the time came, he used her for personal benefit. Even after being selfish, he led a life of despair and distress.
Stephen Blackpool – He is a character who comes in different parts of the story. Most of the time, his character adds a little drama to the story.
Apart from these, several other characters play a significant role in other parts of the story.
Wrapping it up with a reader’s review:
“Published in 1854, Hard Times is a novel based upon the novelist’s personal experiences and feelings about the life in the industrial towns of England of the Victorian era. The story is loaded with the bitter sincerity of Dicken’s dislike for industrial automation of life and hard utilitarianism. All evils of money power and utilitarianism are exposed, and fruitlessness gets symbolized in the character of Gradgrind and Josiah Bounder By.
The deplorable condition of the industrial workers’ life in dusty, smoky, and murky hovels and their redundant destitution as well so toil and moil for survival are being portrayed in the characters of Stephen Blackpool and Rachael. The iron wheels of hard facts and statistics to amass wealth at the expense of love, imagination, sensibility, and zest for life made Thomas Gradgrind and Louisa the worst victims. Gradgrind’s regeneration took place at the cost of the ruin of his children’s life and future.”