Sorry I'm a bit late with this, but the site Journal-Lists is offering a free e-mail subscription to Hard Times in weekly installments, on the dates that it was originally published in 1854. Click here to sign up!
Mitchell Kalpakgian has an excellent piece about Hard Times in Crisis magazine. Here's a short excerpt: "Dickens illustrates that the so-called 'useful' things of the world—facts, work, and money—ultimately prove to be useless in life’s major crises, while the 'useless' activities scorned by the utilitarians—play, friendship, charity, hope, and beauty—prove to be infinitely valuable and, ultimately, more beneficial than facts."
John Mark Reynolds (whom I know personally) has an interesting blog post up about how Dickens had a "prophetic vision of Western education: the rise of Gradgrind" in Hard Times. There are some good insights here, but I'm not sure whether I wholly agree with his remark that "Against Gradgrind, Dickens had nothing positive to say" -- meaning, I take it, that he offered no alternative vision of how education should be.
It wasn't Dickens's purpose in this novel to compare and contrast differing approaches to education. But it's worth nothing that in other books, perhaps most notably David Copperfield, he did offer portraits of good schools where pupils were inspired and encouraged by good teachers, which effectively serve as a counter to the Gradgrind idea of school.
That's my opinion, anyway. Would be interested to hear some of yours!
When people talk about early detective novels, and Dickens's influence on the genre, they usually tend to bring up Inspector Bucket of Bleak House. The Inspector has been called "the first important detective in English literature," and there's little doubt he merits the description.
But there's at least one other detective figure in Dickens's work who seems to be almost completely overlooked: Sissy Jupe in Hard Times.
I realize, of course, that Sissy is not a professional detective. But the detective canon is full of amateur sleuths, and I would argue that the humble "stroller's child" deserves to be listed among them.
(I'm going to put some major spoilers below the cut, so proceed at your own risk!)
“‘Then Mr M’Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he said, Here are the stutterings -- ’
“‘Statistics,’ said Louisa.
“‘Yes, Miss Louisa -- they always remind me of stutterings, and that’s another of my mistakes -- of accidents upon the sea. And I find (Mr M’Choakumchild said) that in a given time a hundred thousand persons went to sea on long voyages, and only five hundred of them were drowned or burnt to death. What is the percentage? And I said, Miss;’ here Sissy fairly sobbed as confessing with extreme contrition to her greatest error; ‘I said it was nothing.’
“‘Nothing, Miss -- to the relations and friends of the people who were killed. I shall never learn,’ said Sissy.”
Congratulations to the Dickens Society of Baltimore for becoming an official branch of the Dickens Fellowship! (H/T The Buzfuz) This makes it the branch of the Fellowship closest to me. I may have to look into joining up with them!
Speaking of the Fellowship, I'm getting ready to go to their annual conference, starting next week in Chicago, where I will get to meet up with Dickensblog reader and frequent guest blogger Rachel McMillan! (Charles Dickens: bringing people together since 1836.) As I did the last time I was away, I plan to set up some quotes from various Dickens novels to run on the blog while I'm gone. I already have some requests left over from last time that I can use (Nicholas Nickleby, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Christmas Carol, Little Dorrit, and HardTimes)but if you have any more novels that you'd like me to quote from, please let me know in the comments section on this post. Thanks!
And I'm sure Rachel and I will both have lots to share when we get back!
At Re/Code, Irina Raicu looks at Dickens's exploration of "life regulated and shaped by data and algorithms" in Hard Times, and explains the relevance to our own time of his critque of "algorithmic regulation and education."
(It's MUCH more interesting than I'm making it sound, I swear!)
In brief -- this was a fairly good adaptation, all told. The cast, with a few exceptions, was really excellent, with Bill Paterson's Stephen and Beatie Edney's Louisa being the standouts. And even though it looked like they'd been given about $1.50 to spend on the sets, somehow they made it work. (I can't say as much for the soundtrack, though, which sounded equally cheap and much less effective.) The biggest problem, by far, was the uneven pacing. I wouldn't recommend this film before reading the book -- it would be easy to get lost in the "muddle," as Stephen would say. But it makes a decent supplement to the book.
And we're into the home stretch. Nice little monologue in a mirror for Richard E. Grant. Still don't feel that his look is quite right, but I really can't fault his acting. He's done a fantastic job. Sissy's acting, however, strikes me as a little flat. And she wears her hair down for no reason, a la Billie Piper in Mansfield Park.