Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

Hard Times book cover
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In Hard Times, what is the significance of the book structure?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hard Times is divided into three books, entitled respectively "The Sowing," "The Reaping," and "The Garnering." These titles correspond to three stages in a child's upbringing and education. The child is father to the man, as Wordsworth once famously said, and the grounding that children receive in their formative years determines what kind of adults they will grow up to be.

In the case of the children taught by Mr. Gradgrind, they become adults just like him. Given a narrow, utilitarian education in which the rote-learning of facts is everything, they lack the imagination and the experience to deal with real-life situations. No wonder that Tom and Louisa Gradgrind are so keen to have a sneaky peak at what's going on in the circus; they have a deep hunger for an imaginative engagement with the world around them of which they've been deprived for so long by their dull pedant of a father....

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sagnik2405 | Student

It may be that Dickens chose to center his novel on the wealthy -middle class rather than on the lower classes he sought to defend because he realized that most of his Victorian readers would come from the middle classes and that very few of his readers would come from the lower classes. By centering his book on characters with whom his readers could identify, he was better able to awaken their feelings for characters with whom they might otherwise be unable to identify—namely, the poor of Coketown and of England in general. In that sense, the book does its job. Of course, the contrary argument could also be made that the novel simply reinforces comfortable middle-class stereotypes about the noble poor, and it offers no real solution or possibility for change.

tbegay12 | Student

Dickens wrote Hard Times as a critique of the utilitarian and industrial influences on Victorian era society. Dickens explains that a major theme of his novel is, in fact, his attempt to satire those with a small world view dominated by materialism and capitalistic economics. He structures his novel to unveil pessimistic views of the evil mistreatment that took place during the Victorian era between mill owners and trivialized workers. Hard Times is formatted into three separate books; The Sowing, The Reaping, and The Garnering. Each title is named respectively to the underlying plot. It is also argued by some that the titles are in reference to the Bible. In regards to the importance of the structure of Hard Times, Dickens has clearly put much thought into the reflection it has on his writing.