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It is one of Dickens's more straightforward titles--the novel is a fictional exploration of the "hard times" England was going through in the nineteenth century. Though it was the time of the British Empire and of great wealth, the capitalist system was widening the gap between the rich and the poor. There was rampant exploitation of industrial workers--factory hands like Stephen Blackpool--at the hands of the industrial bourgeoisie like Bounderby. It was also a period of joyless materialism that, Dickens felt, was threatening the rich inner life of imagination and beauty.
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