Mr Thomas Gradgrind dominates the industrial town of Coketown. He is the owner of the school, and believes that utilitarian success can only come from fact. He bans fantasy from the minds of his students, and his own children. When his eldest daughter, Louise Gradgrind, marries Mr Bounderby, and his son Tom becomes sucked into a dark world of gambling and robbery, and free-spirited Sissy Jupe becomes entwined with the family; Thomas Gradgrind finds himself forced to question his lifelong beliefs about fact and fancy.
This is a Dickens’ novel that addresses the social problems of the poor and the working class during this era. The meaning behind the writing is explicitly clear, and he has used exaggerated characters with with exaggerated beliefs to convey this. In ‘Hard Times’ imagination enables one to experience sympathy for others, and a cold rationalism leads to insensitivity about human nature. The philosophy of fact also relates strongly to the industrial revolution that “mechanises” human nature – factory workers simply performing drab tasks over and over in much the same way as a machine would.
The characters in this book are wonderful, extremely well developed and one of the main things about the novel that really packs a punch!
Thomas Gradgrind was a really great character to read about and, I think, one of the characters who develops most through the book. The first chapter left me very much disliking him, but he had my full sympathies by the end of the book! He really was left a shadow of his former self – questioning his life’s philosophy and whether things about have been different if he had opened his heart a bit more. Another character that had my full emotional investment was Stephen Blackpool. I liked his role in the story, particularly his struggle with his work union and the repercussions of that. He felt like such a genuine, honest character and I found his ending to be very sad.
Dicken’s definitely excels in creating characters that are specifically penned to be disliked. Take Mr Bounderby for instance! A man with so little moral integrity that he lived to his ‘Bounder’ namesake very well! Mrs Sparsit was another character that I simultaneously disliked and found to be quite brilliant. She had many scenes in the book that were very amusing (especially the staircase scene with Louisa!), and at the same time, her ending was well deserved!
I definitely enjoyed this delve into another Dicken’s novel, and I thought the characters in the book were probably my favourite thing about it! I found it easy to read and understand, but the plot was a little slow at times. I preferred Oliver Twist, but still rate this highly! I am looking forward to reading another wonderful work by Charles Dickens!