Set amid smokestacks and factories, Charles Dickens’s Hard Times is a blistering portrait of Victorian England as it struggles with the massive economic turmoil brought on by the Industrial Revolution.
Championing the mind-numbing materialism of the period is Thomas Gradgrind, one of Dickens’s most vivid characters. He opens the novel by arguing that boys and girls should be taught “nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Forbidding the development of imagination, Gradgrind is ultimately forced to confront the results of his philosophy—his own daughter’s terrible unhappiness.
Full of suspense, humor, and tenderness, Hard Times is a brilliant defense of art in an age of mechanism.