Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Is "Hard Times" a satire of industrial society?

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Yes, the novel is a satire of industrial society.  More importantly, perhaps, it is a satire of the values on which industrial society is based.  The sort of values which Dickens is satirizing is best summed up in Josiah Bounderby's phrase "the Good Samaritan was a bad economist".  Bounderby is a parody, of sorts, of Utilitarian values--i.e. measuring the worth of something according to its usefulness while disregarding sentimentality entirely--but the novel also demonstrates that utilitarian principles are, in some ways, contagious and cause great pain to all who emulate them.  Hence, the story's protagonist, Louisa, marries Bounderby for the sake of her brother even though she does not love Bounderby; this leads to a marriage which inevitably fails and succeeds in revealing the weakness of Utilitarian values to Mr. Gradgrind, Louisa's father.  The only character who ends up truly happy in the novel is Cissy Jupe who (in the first chapter) demonstrates that she is ready to confront the Mr. Gradgrind's trite philosophy.  To summarize, the novel is more than a satire of industrial society; it is a satire of the industrial culture that creates that society.

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