My rating: 3 stars
Patchy and uneven, Hard Times by Charles Dickens is a novel whose main purpose is to criticise the glorification of utilitarianism. For a long while, the characters and, to a certain extent, the plot are only used to convey that condemnation, instead of being critical elements of a gripping story. Although almost all of the characters and the apparent inconsequential parts of the plot end up being relevant, that only happens close to the end of the book.
The headmaster of the Coketown school, Mr Thomas Gradgrind, required his pupils to only be taught facts. His own children had the same type of education. Any activity that required imagination, emotions and creativity was forbidden. Once, when he found two of his children, Louisa and Thomas, watching a touring circus, he was appalled. Louisa had been curious to know what it looked like, though.
Sissy Jupe, a new girl at the school, was the daughter of a man who was a performer at the circus. So, Mr Gradgrind and his friend Mr Bounderby went looking for him to inform him that she couldn’t attend the school anymore. But, as Sissy’s father had disappeared, Mr Gradgrind made her a proposal instead – she could continue going to the school as long as she left the circus and he became her tutor. With great sadness, Sissy accepted. Despite not knowing many facts, reason why she was led to feel inadequate, she revealed an interesting perspective on social issues. Continue reading