By Charles Dickens
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307947208, 288pp.)
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
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The shortest of Charles Dickens’s novels, Hard Times is also his most pointed and impassioned satire of social injustice.
Set in Coketown, a fictional industrial town in the north of England, Hard Times was born of its author’s indignation at the soul-crushing conditions of the industrial age, and yet it vibrantly transcends the stock situations and polemical weaknesses typical of social protest fiction of the time. The indelible characters—Mr. Gradgrind, whose utilitarian educational philosophy emotionally cripples his own children; the hypocritical factory owner Josiah Bounderby; Stephen Blackpool, an honest worker wrongly accused of a crime; and Sissy Jupe, a circus performer whose father abandons her to what he hopes is a better life—all come alive in classic Dickensian fashion, and contribute to a satiric vision of society tempered equally by righteous anger and compassionate humanity.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was born in Portsmouth, England, and spent most of his life in London. When he was twelve, his father was sent to debtor’s prison and he was forced to work in a boot polish factory, an experience that marked him for life. He became a passionate advocate of social reform and the most popular writer of the Victorian era.