Book Review

This is the story of Thomas Gradgrind, an educator, wealthy entrepreneur and Member of Parliament and his family in the industrial city of "Coketown," England. As parent and educator, Gradgrind is influenced by his personal philosophy and worldview of rationalism, self-interest and fact. Thomas Gradgrind believes the individual should not engage in fanciful or imaginative pursuits. Gradgrind raises his children on this philosophy, and as the children grow older and move from home, this social exchange worldview follows his daughter Louisa into her marriage with a much older man and a friend of her father, Mr. Josiah Bounderby.

Joshua Bounderby, a boastful impostor, industrialist and Utilitarian sees nothing in life but figures and averages. Bounderby is used by Dickens to satirize and portray the plight of the lowest laborers in Coketown’s factories. Stephen Blackpool, a poor factory "hand" whose love for Rachael cannot be transformed to marriage because he is already married to a drunken woman who disappears frequently from home, is legally unable to divorce because only the wealthy have the right to divorce.
A major motivation to read this book is that, unlike most of Dickens' works, Hard Times is centered on one central plot with a few well-chosen subplots rather than multiple complicated subplots. The themes also are very simple to understand and based on fact vs. fancy, greed vs poverty, and honesty vs deceit. This book is a must read.