Key Facts full title: Hard Times for These Times
author: Charles Dickens
type of work: Novel
genre: Victorian novel; realist novel; satire; dystopia
time and place written: 1854, London
date of first publication: Published in serial instalments in Dickens’s magazine Household Words between April 1 and August 12, 1854
publisher: Charles Dickens
narrator: The anonymous narrator serves as a moral authority. By making moral judgments about the characters, the narrator shapes our interpretations of the novel.
point of view: The narrator speaks in the third person and has a limited omniscience. He knows what is going on in all places and at all times, but he sometimes speculates about what the characters might be feeling and thinking, suggesting, at those times, that he does not actually know.
tone: The narrator’s tone varies drastically, but it is frequently ironic, mocking, and even satirical, especially when he describes Bounderby, Harthouse, and Mrs. Sparsit. When describing Stephen and Rachael, his tone is pathetic, evoking sympathy.
tense: The narrative is presented in the past tense; however, at the end, the narrator reveals what the future will bring to each of the main characters.
setting (time): The middle of the nineteenth century
setting (place): Coketown, a manufacturing town in the south of England
protagonist: Louisa Gradgrind
major conflict: Louisa Gradgrind struggles to reconcile the fact-driven self-interest of her upbringing with the warmth of feeling that she witnesses both in Sissy Jupe and developing within herself. As this attitude changes, Louisa is caught between allegiances to her family and loveless marriage and her desire to transcend the emotional and personal detachment of her past.
rising action: Sissy joins the Gradgrind household, and Louisa marries Mr. Bounderby unwillingly, only to satisfy her father’s sense of what