Hard Times is my return to Charles Dickens as an adult. I have read Oliver Twist and David Copperfield as a child. I didn’t have an appetite for Dickens when I was young, for his subjects were sad and depressing. But as an adult, I understand and appreciate him. He touched so many sides of the society which were rarely spoken of before. He penetrated into human minds so thoroughly and exposed both their black and white sides. Although these qualities in his writing made me sad and depress before, the same qualities have made me fall in love with his writing now.
Hard Times is Dickens’s shortest novel. Through a well outlined and well-written story, Dickens comments on the lives, living, and conditions of towns in the light of industrialization. This social commentary gives a perfect picture of the lives and conditions of living of working-class people and the dominating power exercised on them by their masters over every aspect of their lives, suppressing them and using them to secure their wealth and position in life.
There is also a strong criticism of utilitarianism. This theory was introduced in the aftermath of the industrial revolution to make it easy for the masters to control the working class, depriving them of any capacity to reason and making them live a submissive life according to their whims and fancies. Dickens’s use of Facts against Reason throughout the book subtly mocks the theory and exposes the social downfall that it would lead to. He brings the character of Louisa Gradgrind and demonstrates what tragedies one would face if they are suppressed of their capacity to feel and to reason. Although it is a little overstated, the point is clearly proved.
I liked the character variety in the book. They ranged from kind, goodhearted, sweet-tempered to cunning, boastful, treacherous. This wide variety added colour and contrast to the book. The story was engaging, his social views kept me well connected with it all along. I enjoyed his satire very much. Dickens is a realistic writer of the Victorian era and that is the secret of his popularity even today.