There are 24 critical essays on Hard Times.
Critical Essays on Hard Times
Critical Essay by F. R. Leavis
9,251 words, approx. 31 pages
Leavis was an influential twentieth-century English critic. His methodology combines close textual criticism with predominantly moral and social concerns; however, Leavis is not interested in the individual writer per se, but rather with the usefulness of his or her art in the scheme of civilization. The essay reprinted below, which appeared in its present form in 1948, is widely considered the seminal (and most controversial) essay on Hard Times published in the twentieth century. Here, elaborating on cla...
Critical Essay by David Craig
8,642 words, approx. 29 pages
In the following essay, Craig details Dickens's use of cultural and popular elements in Hard Times.
Critical Essay by David Sonstroem
8,040 words, approx. 27 pages
In the following essay, Sonstroem identifies conflict between Fact—dry statistics and empirical definitions—and Fancy—variously identified with imagination, romance, wonder, and nonsense—as central to the structure of Hard Times.
7,814 words, approx. 26 pages
Johnson is one of the most prominent Dickens scholars of the mid to late twentieth century, and his two-volume Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph (1952) is considered an essential text on Dickens and his work. In the excerpt below, he provides a detailed examination of Dickens's anti-Utilitarian stance in Hard Times, noting that the novel's final scenes "hold . . . the essence of his defense of art. "
Critical Essay by Joseph Butwin
7,525 words, approx. 25 pages
In the following essay, Butwin examines Hard Times as a novel of social reform and compares it with social-reform journalism of the period.
Critical Essay by Juliet McMaster
6,348 words, approx. 21 pages
In the following essay, McMaster examines how Dickens uses color imagery in Hard Times to reinforce its characterizations and themes.
Critical Essay by John Holloway
6,177 words, approx. 21 pages
The essay below, along with David H. Hirsch 's "Hard Times and F. R. Leavis" (1964), represents the most trenchant critical response to Leavis's famous 1948 essay championing Hard Times as Dickens's most accomplished novel.
Critical Essay by David H. Hirsch
6,139 words, approx. 21 pages
The essay below represents one of the two most notable critical responses to F. R. Leavis's seminal 1948 essay on Hard Times, the other being John Holloway's "Hard Times: A History and a Criticism" (1962). Hirsch finds Hard Times "One of the dullest and least successful" of Dickens's works, despite the author's "most commendable" purpose.
Critical Essay by Jean Ferguson Carr
6,055 words, approx. 20 pages
In the essay below, Carr assesses Dickens's "sympathetic identification with feminine discourses in the 1850s" as exemplified in Hard Times.
6,011 words, approx. 20 pages
Here, Fowler discusses Dickens's use of language and dialect in Hard Times as a tool for characterization and "unresolved ideological complexity. "
Critical Essay by Robert Barnard
5,568 words, approx. 19 pages
In the following excerpt, Barnard discusses Dickens's treatment of industrial unrest and his characterizations of Gradgrind and Bounderby in Hard Times.
Critical Essay by Edwin P. Whipple
4,237 words, approx. 14 pages
Below, Whipple suggests that some representative assessments of Hard Times fail to consider "the distinction between Dickens as a creator of character and Dickens as a humorous satirist of what he considers flagrant abuses." Whipple maintains that both Dickens's satirical and dramatic genius are evident in his portrayal of the characters and incidents of the novel.
3,552 words, approx. 12 pages
Shaw is generally considered the greatest and best-known dramatist to write in the English language since Shakespeare. During the late nineteenth century, he was also a prominent literary, art, music, and drama critic, and his reviews were known for their biting wit and brilliance. Like his friendly rival, Chesterton, Shaw was a longtime enthusiast of Dickens's work, primarily because of its value in the literature of class struggle, an emphasis which appealed strongly to the Fabian Shaw. In the fol...
Critical Essay by Lewis Harrison
2,797 words, approx. 9 pages
In the essay below, Harrison profiles the characters in Hard Times, each of whom is "the ghost of some greater creation," appearing in a "great book" which is "no less a piece of artistry than Copperfield."
Critical Essay by G. K. Chesterton
2,698 words, approx. 9 pages
Regarded as one of England's premier men of letters during the first half of the twentieth century, Chesterton is best known today as a colorful bon vivant, a witty essayist, Catholic apologist, and as the creator of the Father Brown mysteries. His essays are characterized by their humor, frequent use of paradox, and chatty, rambling style. He was a lifelong Dickens enthusiast and wrote many essays on Dickens's works, including the introductions to each of the novels published in J. M. Dent...
N. K. Banerjee
2,235 words, approx. 8 pages
In the following excerpt, Banerjee explores the relation between the tripartite structure of Hard Times—"Sowing," "Reaping," and "Garnering"—and Dickens's development of the novel's themes.
Critical Essay by Daniel P. Deneau
2,175 words, approx. 7 pages
In the essay below, Deneau details incestuous overtones in relations between Tom and Louisa Gradgrind in Hard Times.
Critical Essay by Harland S. Nelson
1,860 words, approx. 6 pages
In the following excerpt, Nelson cites Hard Times and incidents in its plot in the course of illustrating the importance of life's mystery and diversity as presented in Dicken's works.
Critical Essay by A. O. J. Cockshut
1,555 words, approx. 5 pages
In the essay below, Cockshut seeks to demonstrate—contra F. R. Leavis—that Hard Times is not Dickens's masterpiece. He does, however, consider it a novel of high accomplishment.
1,117 words, approx. 4 pages
In the following excerpt, Engel favorably appraises Hard Times, focusing upon its economy of presentation and emphasis upon the need for imagination—not utility alone—to make life bearable and full.
Critical Essay by Stephen Leacock
986 words, approx. 3 pages
A respected Canadian professor of economics, Leacock is best known as one of the leading humorists of the first half of the twentieth century. He is also the author of biographies of Twain and Dickens. In the excerpt from the latter which appears below, Leacock sketches the plot and details the "failure" of Hard Times.
Critical Essay by Barbara Hardy
865 words, approx. 3 pages
In the excerpt below, Hardy examines Hard Times as one among several novels in which Dickens chose not to affirm a sure solution to the social problems he addressed.
404 words, approx. 1 pages
In the following excerpt from a work originally published in 1898, Gissing writes of Hard Times as a failed labor novel..
Letter by John Ruskin
323 words, approx. 1 pages
Ruskin was an English critic, essayist, historian, poet, novella writer, autobiographer, and diarist. Endowed with a passion for reforming what he considered his "blind and wandering fellow-men" and convinced that he had "perfect judgment" in aesthetic matters, he was the author of over forty books and several hundred essays and lectures that expounded his theories of aesthetics, morality, history, economics, and social reform. In the following excerpt from a letter written shor...
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