Hard Times – For These Times (more commonly now known as Hard Times) is the tenth novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1854. The book appraises English society and is aimed at highlighting the social and economic pressures of the times. It was Charles Dickens’s only novel about the industrial working class.


The Utilitarians were one of the targets of Dickens’ satire. Utilitarianism was a prevalent school of thought during this period, its founders being Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, father to political theorist John Stuart Mill. Bentham’s former secretary, Edwin Chadwick, helped design the Poor Law of 1834, which deliberately made workhouse life as uncomfortable as possible. In the novel, this attitude is conveyed in Bitzer’s response to Gradgrind’s appeal for compassion.

Portrait of Jeremy Bentham, philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

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The novel was published as a serial in Dickens’s weekly publication, Household Words. The novel was serialised, in twenty weekly parts, between 1 April and 12 August 1854. It sold well, and a complete volume was published in August, and divided into three parts, titled “Sowing“, “Reaping” and “Garnering“. Another related novel, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, was also published in Household Words.

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