Hard Times has a slightly different feel from the rest of the Dickens’ novels I’ve read. It still has the pitiful and virtuous orphan – though she is a secondary character. The villains are not so much evil, as they are foolish or boorish, and it wouldn’t be Dickens without some ironic coincidence and poetic justice – BUT, the ending is not so perfectly satisfying; it is a mixture of folly that cannot be undone, and beauty that is reclaimed.
The heroine Louisa, or more precisely, the promise of a heroine is a blooming beauty, with a sharp intellect, and an immense capacity for love. She is the daughter of perfectly pragmatic Mr. Gradgrind who raises her as all his children to be perfectly pragmatic, devoted to facts, oblivious to passion, pleasure, or whimsy. Louisa learns her lessons, and her duty, well and succumbs to a perfectly practical life.
The reader weeps, for there is detectible in Louisa the un-nurtured promise of an elegant mind, a compassionate spirit, and a joyful heart.
There is a heartbreaking scene, when Louisa who is fated beyond repair, despairs of her life to her father.
How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, O father, what have you done, with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here!
She struck herself with both her hands upon her bosom.
And now alas too late…her father weeps.
Sounds pretty miserable huh? Well that is the Dickens motif, but unlike most if his stories, in this case, all things are not set quite right.
But…there is still something left to make the reader’s heart rejoice.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This novel satisfies “New-to-Me Classic by a favorite author“ in the Back to the Classics 2021 Challenge and The Classics Club Spin#26.