|Genre:||Literature & Fiction|
Reading this book for the first time, I found Charles Dickens 1853 novel "Hard Times" about a fictional northern English city of Coketown and its and its sterile and dark atmosphere an excellent read. It starts with a indictment of factory-based, facts-oriernted "model schools" for children. Then we meet the "Hands" workers with little life beyond work, and beauty and social amusement seen as a frivious luxury (Charity or justice is also frivilous to this doctrine of top-down industrial feudalism. ) And then we see the effect the doctrine has on the very people who promoted it. It is not a cheerful picture.
Dickens' indictment of misapplied utilitarianism,the factory-school system that existed to root out the hearts of the young and the hypocrisy that some of upper class and wealth, especially the loathsome "self-made man" Josiah Bounderby, try to foist on their factory "hands". The book succeeds as an entertainment with all the plot twists and come'upance you'd want from such a book. But also as a political novel in the same vein as John Steinbeck's humanistic "Grapes of Wrath" or his earlier novel about struggling workers in Depression-era California, "In Dubious Battle".
Mainly this is because it is not a political novel in the sense of a polemic, but one that serves as a dramatized plea for the better senses of human beings to be restored and put above base coinage, banks, and economic productivity. It does this by giving us characters and humor and changed minds of peole we can care about, not just straw characters and statistics.
And it speaks to our time as well, a plea to save human beings from the maw of simply being industrial (or, in our day) technological or retail/service industry cogs and tools to any of the masters of our community. There's a little Coketown wherever you go.
Humans need circuses in some form, time for drama and poetry and beauty and time to appreciate it all. We all have a divine spark that should be cherished. Those sparks shouldn't be starved of energy.
Below is an animated adaptation of the first part of the novel, from a graphic novel by Nick Ellis.