by Charles Dickens | Grades 9-12
Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens's weekly magazine, Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of The Pickwick Papers and The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a better expose of a capitalist exploration during the industrial revolution--and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters--including the heartless fact-worshiper Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool--Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens's major novels.