Coketown is dominated by the figure of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school headmaster and model of Utilitarian success. Feeding both his pupils and his family with facts, he bans fancy and wonder from young adult minds. As a consequence his obedient daughter Louisa marries the loveless businessman and ’bully of humanity’ Mr Bounderby, and his son Tom rebels to become embroiled in gambling and robbery. And, as their fortunes cross with those of free-spirited circus girl Sissy Jupe and victimised weaver Stephen Blackpool, Gradgrind is eventually forced to recognise the value of the human heart in an age of materialism and machinery.
This edition of Hard Times is based of the text of the first volume publication of 1854. Kate Flint’s introduction sheds light on the frequently overlooked character interplay in Dickens’s great critique of Victorian industrial society.