Monday, January 28, 2008

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”

I started this book late last year, then it disappeared. I was cleaning my bed and it reappeared. Hard Times, magic novel. The story begins with the paragraph above, spoken to a group of children in the fictional city of Coketown. In Coketown, children are taught to be perfectly logical and utilitarian, and things such as fiction, imagination, and poetry are considered blights on society. The primary advocates of this doctrine are Mr. Bounderby and Mr. Gradgrind, who run the school, and the bulk of the narrative follows them and Mr. Gradgrind's children as they reap the fruits of their utilitarian philosophy.


The book is split into three sections, 'Sowing', 'Reaping', and 'Garnering', based on Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The plot is fairly complex (and I think Carlton might read this, so I won't spoil it), but Hard Times is a novel with an agenda. It's completely viscious to many of its characters, Mr. Bounderby in particular, and toward their overly-practical ideology. It also takes some pretty stinging swipes at factory conditions during the Industrial Revolution, the moral and social split between the rich and the poor, and the role of women in Victorian society.


It's also very funny, somewhat unexpected considering the topics at hand. Mr. Bounderby cuts a particularly ridiculous figure, as he spends most of the novel talking down to his formerly-aristocratic housekeeper and saying things like:


'By George!' said Mr. Bounderby, 'when I was four or five years younger than you, I had worse bruises upon me than ten oils, twenty oils, forty oils, would have rubbed off. I didn't get 'em by posture-making, but by being banged about. There was no rope- dancing for me; I danced on the bare ground and was larruped with the rope.'


Anyway, I enjoyed this book, but since I'm no good at deep analysis and I don't want to spoil the plot, I'll just end here.

5 comments:

Brooke said...

Hard Times is a great read. As far as Victorian literature goes, I'll take Dickens over the Aesthetics any day.

I wanted to give Tom a good kick, though.

Christopher said...

"vicious" or "viscous?"

mcquest yb said...

I am also a fan of Charles Dickens.

Carlton said...

Charles Dickens is overrated.

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