This novel caught my interest faster than the other Dickens' novels that I have read. A brief glance at either the preface or introduction indicated that this novel is about a quarter the size of some of his other works which explains the lack of filler and tedious drag of plot and/or over-filled plot. I wonder if this work is short because
not written as a serial? Anyway, for a Dickens' read to to start so smoothly and proceed so
quickly I found quite refreshing.
A note of caution. Readers easily absorb the outlooks of an author especially when the author does not consciously state his world-view but rather displays his concepts of morality in the tone, action, and outcome of the story. I do not agree with Dickensian reasoning and morality always, especially in regards to the personal responsibility question which is an issue in this novel. The major issue in this novel for me regarded Louisa. Louisa was to blame for what she was and what she did.
People are not merely acted upon by others; they also make choices, and
Mr. Gradgrind neither could control Louisa's thoughts nor did he force her
marry Mr. Bounderby; he did not really attempt to even strongly persuade really.
I found the mini-plot stories and the characters quite interesting (I apparently have a thing for mills and factory towns and master/worker struggles–North and South, Shirley, Mary Barton . . . ). I greatly appreciated the redemption of Louisa; she, unlike so many in her position, literally followed the Biblical principle to "flee sexual immorality." I also appreciated the belated repentance of Tom (whom I liked better than Louisa; Tom had to bear all his responsibility and his father did not receive much or any blame, quite unlike the Louisa situation). I found the obnoxious absurdity of Mr. Bounderby and the ludicrously extreme nosiness of Mrs. Sparsit quite well-executed, but Dickens' applied his humor, which is always rather grim, rather darkly in this novel. I found the mortifying of Mr. Harthouse quite satisfying. The story had no wholly good romance (certainly no happy one) and ended sadly (although less gloomily than much of the plot seemed to indicate), yet I still enjoyed it.
Labels: Classics Club, Literature Reviews