Bookish Discussions

Charles Dickens’ Hard Times:



‘Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them’

Rating: 4.5 stars (originally 4)

Read: 11 October – 14 October, 2018

I fell in love with Hard Times back in December, 2016. It was the first Dickens’ novel that I read, understood and thoroughly enjoyed. I’m so happy I was asked to re-read it for my Victorian Realism class; it was such a joy to re-visit these characters. If you haven’t read this one before, I’ll leave the Penguin English Library blurb below (I hope it convinces you to pick a copy up!):

Hard Times is a searing, passionate criticism of a world that values material success and rationalism above the human heart. Mr Thomas Gradgrind, headmaster of Coketown school and model of Utilitarian virtue, feeds his pupils and family with ‘nothing by facts’, banning fancy and wonder from their minds. His neglect of feelings leads to both personal misery and strife in wider society. Dickens’ novel is a celebration of the power of the imagination. 

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Bookish Discussions

The Condition of the Working Class in England:



‘The middle classes have a truly extraordinary conception of society. They really believe that human beings […] have real existence only if they make money or help to make it’

Rating: 4 stars

Read: 21 September – 25 September, 2018

I’m happy that Friedrich Engels’ study of the working class in England (well, four chapters of it) was a compulsory read for university. I doubt I would have picked it up otherwise. I decided to read it in its entirety and I don’t regret my decision. Written during his stay in Manchester from 1842-1844, Engels complied his own observations with contemporary reports to detail the life of the victims of early industrial change. As my edition states, this historical study pairs brilliantly with contemporary writers such as Dickens and Gaskell.

It was a very hard read but, in the end, it was also very rewarding. It took me a while to make my way through, sometimes taking me an hour to read one chapter. It’s very detailed. Engels picks apart the relationship between the workers and bourgeoise, exploring all aspects of it. I looked at the proletarian in agricultural districts, mining districts, in factory settings, and more. I looked at the Irish and their relationship with the English workers and the property-holders. I looked at the conditions of the working-class, both in cities and in domestic spaces. There was so much packed into this.

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