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What is the significance of the title, Hard Times?

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farnazk | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 13, 2011 at 8:31 AM via web

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What is the significance of the title, Hard Times?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 13, 2011 at 5:44 PM (Answer #1)

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I am not really sure that there is any other way to describe the story of the Gradgrind family other than to say that it consisted of plenty of "Hard Times."  The mere educational philosophy of Thomas Gradgrind is one that consists of hardened facts, grounded in rationality,  There is no room for "fancy" in such a configuration, and "hard data" is what is accepted and taught.  Consider that the opening of the novel is one with an angry lecture from a teacher.  It just seems like this is the best way to introduce that education in Coketown and life, in general, consists of "hard times."  From this, more "hard times" emerge.  Louisa is educated in a manner where there is no comprehension of emotional sensitivity and the lack of affect causes her to enter into a loveless marriage where pain and "hard times" emerges.  If we extend to the ending, there is much more of these moments.  The last scene where Thomas and his son is an emotional "hard time," where the father fully understands his failure to teach his son a moral compass.  There is something painful about the guilt and resentment that exists between father and son, and this moment is a representation of "hard times."  The ending is one where Tom's life is filled with "remorse and grief" and "illness and death," while Louisa is committed to philanthropy.  Mr. Gradgrind has abandoned his "fact, not fancy" and embraced the life of religious faith.  For all of them, life is "hard times" and nothing else at the end of the novel.

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