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Dickens, Charles-Hard Times

The novel was published in 1854. The story is based on two social issues of Dickens’ time: the lack of humanity in factories and the utilitarian teaching methods
The setting is Coketown, an imaginary industrial city in the North of England.

Plot

Thomas Gradgrind has founded a school where the principles of utilitarian philosophy are applied to education. This teaching method is based on the importance of facts over imagination and human relationships. Even Mr. Gradgrind’s children, Louisa and Tom, as well as his adoptive daughter Sissy, attend this school. Mr. Gradgrinds suggests Louisa should marry Mr. Bounderby, a rich factory owner and banke, much older than her. Louisa accepts the marriage. Tom, her brother, gets a job in Mr. Bounderby’s bank, but after having stolen some money from it, he hides himself in a circus. There, he’s given accommodation. Eventually, Mr. Gradgrind understands the negative effects of the materialistic philosophy he has taught to his children.

As to the setting of the story, Coketown is a typical Victorian industrial city.
All houses are made up of red bricks. The streets are similar to each other and so are the inhabitants of the town, who leave at the same hour to do the same work and to whom everyday is identical to the day before and the day after. They live a monotonous and melancholy life. The air is polluted because of the smokes released by chimneys and a terrible smell comes from the river and the canal. As for public buildings, you can’t distinguish one from the other, apart from the Church.

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