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Q&A | February 27, 2014

Rene Denfeld: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Rene Denfeld



Describe your latest book. The Enchanted is a story narrated by a man on death row. The novel was inspired by my work as a death penalty... Continue »
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Hard times

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Hard times Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

By 1854, when Hard Times was published, Charles Dickens' magisterial progress as a writer had come to incorporate a many-sided, coherent vision of English society, both as it was and as he wished it to be. Hard Times. a classic Dickensian story of redemption set in a North of England town beset by industrialism, everywhere benefits from this vision - in the trenchancy of its satire, in its sweeping indignation at social injustice, and in the persistent humanity with which its author enlivens his largest and smallest incidents.

From the Hardcover edition.

1. Did Dickens have a clear purpose in writing Hard Times? Was Hard Times primarily an exhortation to solve the problems faced by

nineteenth-century England, or was his subject matter merely a vehicle that allowed him to write a humorous story using the familiar character types of his day? Do you consider Dickens primarily to be an activist? A social critic? A humor writer?

2. Describe the relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind. Why is Mr. Gradgrind's philosophy lost on Mrs. Gradgrind? What accounts for her total lack of understanding?

3. In the first few words of Hard Times, in the title to the first book, "Sowing," there is a biblical allusion. Hard Times ends with another biblical allusion in the penultimate paragraph, where Dickens refers to the "Writing on the Wall." Biblical references are made throughout the novel, and Christian sentiment is appealed to constantly. How important are Christian underpinnings to Dickens's moral message? Do Dickens's criticisms and appeals go beyond the religious? If so, what other moral ideals are put forth in Hard Times, and what are their implications?

4. Coketown is, of course, a wholly fictitious city. However, it is a microcosm of England during the time of the Industrial Revolution and is modeled on cities that existed at the time. What are the problems of Coketown, and what are the causes of these problems? As a community, does Coketown accurately or inaccurately portray the ills of nineteenth-century English industrial cities? Does the creation of this fictitious town make Dickens's satire more effective than if he were to situate it in a real city? Why?

5. Since the conditions of life in English factory towns have changed, and many years have passed since the writing of Hard Times, what can be said to be the book's lasting value? Is it primarily historical, painting a picture of the way life was at one time? Is it moral or philosophical? Are the aspects of the novel that were important at the time of its publication still the ones that are valued today?

6. Are Rachael and Stephen realistic characters, even in the context of a satirical novel? What purpose do they serve to the novel as a whole, and which characters are they most starkly contrasted with? How does the scene of Stephen's death stand out in the novel? How is it important to the overarching themes Dickens is trying to convey?

Product Details

ISBN:
9780553900811
Publisher:
Bantam Books
Subject:
Classics
Author:
Charles Dickens With an Introduction by Robert Donald Spector
Author:
Dickens, Charles
Author:
Charles, Dickens
Subject:
Fiction-Classics
Subject:
Fiction : Classics
Subject:
Novels and novellas
Subject:
Social problems
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
England
Subject:
Married people
Subject:
Utilitarianism
Subject:
England Social life and customs.
Subject:
England Social conditions 19th century.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
19810301
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
304

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

Hard times
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Product details 304 pages Random House Publishing Group - English 9780553900811 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens’s weekly magazine, Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of The Pickwick Papers and The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a bitter exposé of capitalist exploitation during the industrial revolution–and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters–including the heartless fact-worshipper

Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool–Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens’s major novels.

"Synopsis" by , CHAPTER I

The One Thing Needful

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

The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellerage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by

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