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Hard Times


Plot and structure
Plot
The novel is set in an imaginary city called Coketown (=città del carbone), where Mr. Gradgrind has founded a school in which his theories are taught.
He brings up two children (Louisa and Tom) repressing their imagination and feelings.
He marries Louisa to Mr. Bounderby, a 30-years-older-than-her rich banker.
She doesn’t love him, but accepts the relationship in order to help his brother, who is given a job by Bounderby’s bank.
By the way Tom is lazy and robs the employer: at first he succeeds in blaming an honest man, but in the end he is discovered and obliged to leave the country.
Structure
The novel is divided in three sections and each section is divided in three chapters.

• First Book: Sowing > shows us the seeds planted by the Gradgrind education (Louisa, Tom and Stephen Blackpool).

• Second Book : Reaping > shows their harvestings (Louisa’s unhappy marriage, Tom’s criminal ways and Stephen’s rejection from Coketown)

• Third Book: Garnering > gives us the details

A critique of materialism
The novel focuses on the difference between rich and poor or owners and workers, that had to work long hours in dirty and dangerous factories.
Given their education and job skills lack, they had few options for improving their conditions.
The novel criticizes the narrow-mindedness of Utilitarianism, that was the main current during the Victorian Age, and suggests that 19th-century England was turning humans in machines avoiding to develop their emotions and imaginations (f.e. Mr. Grandgrind and Bounderby).
Mr. Gradgrind thinks human nature can be measured, quantified and governed by rational rules.
Children = little machines

Nothing but Facts!
1. Physical Aspect
Hard Times

Plot and structure
Plot
The novel is set in an imaginary city called Coketown (=città del carbone), where Mr. Gradgrind has founded a school in which his theories are taught.
He brings up two children (Louisa and Tom) repressing their imagination and feelings.
He marries Louisa to Mr. Bounderby, a 30-years-older-than-her rich banker.
She doesn’t love him, but accepts the relationship in order to help his brother, who is given a job by Bounderby’s bank.
By the way Tom is lazy and robs the employer: at first he succeeds in blaming an honest man, but in the end he is discovered and obliged to leave the country.
Structure
The novel is divided in three sections and each section is divided in three chapters.

• First Book: Sowing > shows us the seeds planted by the Gradgrind education (Louisa, Tom and Stephen Blackpool).

• Second Book : Reaping > shows their harvestings (Louisa’s unhappy marriage, Tom’s criminal ways and Stephen’s rejection from Coketown)

• Third Book: Garnering > gives us the details

A critique of materialism
The novel focuses on the difference between rich and poor or owners and workers, that had to work long hours in dirty and dangerous factories.
Given their education and job skills lack, they had few options for improving their conditions.
The novel criticizes the narrow-mindedness of Utilitarianism, that was the main current during the Victorian Age, and suggests that 19th-century England was turning humans in machines avoiding to develop their emotions and imaginations (f.e. Mr. Grandgrind and Bounderby).
Mr. Gradgrind thinks human nature can be measured, quantified and governed by rational rules.
Children = little machines

Nothing but Facts!
1. Physical Aspect
o Forehead: squared, like a wall
o Eyes: sunk in dark caves
o Mouth: wide, thin and hard set
o Hair: bristled on the skirt of his bald head, covered with knobs, like a crust of a plum pie

2. Voice
o Inflexible
o Dry
o Dictatorial

3. Clothes
o Coat: Square
o Necktie: Very tight around his neck

4. Idea of education
o Based on facts to memorize
o No personal opinions
o “Nothing, but facts”
o Children are like vessels to be filled with facts

5. Details to emphasize the idea of education
Precise and grotesque description of the schoolmaster is important to emphasize the strict way to teach in the school system:
o Unattractive
o Geometry and over regularity
o Abstract and impossible idea of education
o Imperative tenses

6. THE AIM OF DICKENS
He uses an ironic and grotesque tone to denounce the school system and the concept of material happiness (Utilitarianism)

7. The meaning of “gradgrind”
Somebody who grinds (=frantuma) children’s mind at any different school levels

Coketown
It is an industrial city and Dickens uses different images to describe it.

1. Images
o A town of red bricks, or of bricks that would have been red if the smoke and ashes allowed it.
o Unnatural red and black
o Machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed for ever and ever
o Black canal, Purple river, lots of buildings with rattling and trembling

2. Rethorical devices
• Similies
• Serpents
• Face of a savage City = Jungle, scaring place
• Elephant

• Repetitions
• Imagines of pollution
• Colour and senses (some colours that suggest a sense of estrangement)

• List of public Buildings
• Chapel with a square steeple (=Campanile)
• Public inscriptions in severe characters of black and white
• Jail
• Town Hall
• School

3. Effects
• Estrangement
• Monotony
• Alienation

4. Middle class
• Comforts of life
• Elegances
• Fine lady

The Key Words are: Facts – Same – Brick – Town/City – Red – Black
Dickens wants to criticize the pollution in towns and the Utilitarianism

The narrator is obtrusive and omniscient (third person)
“Choakumchild” means “soffoca bambini”

• Forehead: squared, like a wall
• Eyes: sunk in dark caves
• Mouth: wide, thin and hard set
• Hair: bristled on the skirt of his bald head, covered with knobs, like a crust of a plum pie

2. Voice
• Inflexible
• Dry
• Dictatorial

3. Clothes
• Coat: Square
• Necktie: Very tight around his neck

4. Idea of education
• Based on facts to memorize
• No personal opinions
• “Nothing, but facts”
• Children are like vessels to be filled with facts

5. Details to emphasize the idea of education
Precise and grotesque description of the schoolmaster is important to emphasize the strict way to teach in the school system:
• Unattractive
• Geometry and over regularity
• Abstract and impossible idea of education
• Imperative tenses

6. The aim of Dickens
He uses an ironic and grotesque tone to denounce the school system and the concept of material happiness (Utilitarianism)

7. The meaning of “gradgrind”
Somebody who grinds (=frantuma) children’s mind at any different school levels

Coketown
It is an industrial city and Dickens uses different images to describe it.

1. Images
• A town of red bricks, or of bricks that would have been red if the smoke and ashes allowed it.
• Unnatural red and black
• Machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed for ever and ever
• Black canal, Purple river, lots of buildings with rattling and trembling

2. Rethorical devices
• Similies
• Serpents
• Face of a savage City = Jungle, scaring place
• Elephant

• Repetitions
• Imagines of pollution
• Colour and senses (some colours that suggest a sense of estrangement)

• List of public Buildings
• Chapel with a square steeple (=Campanile)
• Public inscriptions in severe characters of black and white
• Jail
• Town Hall
• School

3. Effects
• Estrangement
• Monotony
• Alienation

4. Middle class
• Comforts of life

• Elegances
• Fine lady

The Key Words are: Facts – Same – Brick – Town/City – Red – Black
Dickens wants to criticize the pollution in towns and the Utilitarianism

The narrator is obtrusive and omniscient (third person)
“Choakumchild” means “soffoca bambini”

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