Comment on the sub-division of the novel Hard Times into sowing, reaping and garnering.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a great question because it draws attention to the way that the very structure of the novel into three separate books helps to create and develop one of the central conflicts in the novel - the conflict between natural time (characterised in the passing of the seasons) and man-made time.

Consider how in Coketown and in Gradgrind's house, time is severely mechanised and controlled. Time is presented as something that is monotonous, relentless and regular, seen as an extension of man's desire to control life. Consider how Gradgrind has a "deadly statistical clock" in his office. Yet, as you have noted, the natural passing of time as summarised by the seasons and the processes of planting and harvesting are referred to through the naming of the separate books. Likewise, the narrator notes that even in Coketown the seasons still change. Dickens seems to build and develop this conflict to reinforce his central theme of the impact of the mechanisation of human existence. The variety of the seasons result in different landscapes and different jobs in agricultural terms, but in Coketown, industrialisation has replaced this with incessant, regular, predictable and unchanging toil.

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