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First published in 1854, Hard Times is a profoundly moving, articulate and searing indictment of the life-reducing effects of the industrial revolution, and certain aspects of enlightenment thinking. Set in the fictional midlands mill-town of Coketown, the narrative centers on the industrialist, Mr Thomas Gradgrind, whose belief in scientific utilitarianism skews his world view and is a motive force, carrying the narrative towards farce and tragedy.
Gradgrind's no-nonsense abhorrence of 'fancy' extends to his implementing an ambitious education scheme that aims to exclude all 'nonsense' and keep the minds of young people focused squarely on facts.