Notes on “Hard Times”

At 230-odd pages, this is the smallest Dickens novel I have read.

Very annoying and difficult to read at times because of the accented spelling used (especially in conversations involving Stephen Blackpool and Rachel). Also, partly difficult to comprehend is the spelling used to characterize the toothless (literally speaking) speech of Mr. Sleary

The small size of the novel probably does not give the characters the required space. It almost feels as if the author suddenly remembers that he has lost touch with a few characters while narrating the main story (that of Louisa and her brother, “the whelp”). Case in point is Sissy. Her conviction during the small dialogue with Mr Harthouse is brought upon us without warning. The last we read of her, she was a demure, shy girl who was short on confidence.

Similarly, we do not learn enough of Stephen Blackpool, on why he has his disagreements with the union, on his affection for Rachel.

The true hero of the book is Mrs. Sparsit.Her “staircase” gives you a perspective that could not have been brought on with a thousand words. The need to pity others, the satisfaction that she gains out of it: this is a character written in true Dickens style.

The author moves out of London for this novel. But the undercurrent of class struggle remains. We are reminded of the drudgery of the “Hands” whenever we visit Coketown.

One thing I found odd is the author’s insistence on tying up all the lose ends of the story: the mystery of the old woman, the re-union with Sissy’s old vagabond family. This is true Bollywood style story !

Note: This is not a review of the book; I am not qualified enough to review it.


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