Dickens’s Hard Times: Industrialisation

In this activity, students will examine the working lives of those who produced goods in factories, towns and cities and investigate the social and economic backdrop to Dickens’s novel Hard Times. However, Hard Times is not just a mid-century ‘industrial’ novel; students will explore the unique way in which Dickens depicts the impact on those who are treated as useful tools, rather than sentient beings. The novel is also a critique on certain forms of education, particularly the 19th-century model of learning, which privileged ‘fact’ over ‘fancy’ – in other words, our imaginative response to the world and the expression of our inner selves. Students will be encouraged to make connections between aspects of economic policy and schooling and to assess the stultifying effect on personal relationships of a society dominated by productivity and capitalist ideology.