The shortest novel by far of Charles Dickens', Hard Times is also one of his most idea based works. In it, he launches a scathing attack on the prevailing fashion of believing in Utilitarianism, a philosophy that proposed the goal of society should be “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” Dickens felt that such a philosophy saw people as mere statistics and not as individuals.
The novel was published in serial form in his magazine Household Words. It is also the only novel where London is not featured. Set mainly in the fictional industrial town of Coketown, the book is divided into three sections “Sowing,” “Reaping” and “Garnering.”
It tells the story of a wealthy, retired industrialist, Thomas Gradgrind. His two children are brought up according to strict Utilitarian principles and their teaching is completely devoid of imagination and compassion. When the elder Gradgrind takes in an orphan called Sissy, events are set to take a turn. The Gradgrind children are com