Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812. He had an unhappy childhood because he had to work since the age of 12. When he realized that he had a talent for writing, he became a journalist (under the pen name of Boz) at the Parliament and Law Courts writing Sketches by Boz and The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.
After he wrote some novels that can be divided into two parts:
- About the lives of children in slum and factories: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Little Dorrit.
- About social problems: Bleak House, Hard times and Great Expectation.
He died in 1870 and was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
He was a storyteller and his novels were influenced by the Bible, 18thcentury novelists and essayists, and Gothic novels. London was the setting of most of his novels. At first he created middle class characters but he gradually developed a more radical social view, although he was not a revolutionary thinker. He was aware of the spiritual and material corruption.
Dickens created caricatures exaggerating the social characteristics of the middle, lower and lowest classes. Children are often the most important characters in Dickens’s novels, they are moral teachers, the model to follow. This let the upper classes to know how their poorer neighbors lived.
The language Dickens used was effective thanks to a careful choice of grammar and language structure.
Hard Times is set in Coketown where an educator, Thomas Gradgrind, find a school where his theories are taught. He has two children, Louisa and Tom that educates repressing their feelings. He made Louisa marry to Josiah Bounderby, a rich banker. She accepts because in this way his brother can have a job in Bounderby’s bank, but the marriage proves to be unhappy. Tom robs his employer, at first he succeeds but then he is discover and oblige to live the country. The novel is divided:
- Book II (Reaping)
- Book III (Garnering)
Dickens denounces the differences between the rich and the poor, the owner of the factories and their workers whose lack of education and skills doesn’t let them to improve their condition. It shows how in Victorian society human beings are turned into machines depriving them of their emotion and imagination. Mr. Gradgrind embodies this way of thinking and in his school he tries to do this. Dickens’s aim is to show the danger of a such behavior and the need of emotion and imagination for a fair life.