'Let us strike the keynote, Coketown, before pursuing our tune ... It was a town of machines and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever, and never got uncoiled ...' Hard Times appeared in weekly parts in Household Words in 1854, printed on the pages usually occupied by leading articles on the major social issues of the day. In the overlapping worlds of Gradgrind's schoolroom, Bounderby the humbug industrialist and Sissy Jupe of Sleary's Circus, Dickens joyfully satirizes Utilitarianism, the self-help doctrines of Samuel Smiles and the mechanization of the mid-Victorian soul.
Although it is often called Dickens's 'industrial novel', as Kate Flint argues in her new introduction Hard Times defies easy categorization. It is a novel deeply preoccupied with childhood and family life, bursting with unresolvable tensions and contradictions and wonderfully entertaining in its metaphorical wit and invention.
Includes bibliographical references (p. xxxv-[xxvii]).
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