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1. What is the significance of
the book’s structure? What does each of its three parts represent?
Why are the different sections given agricultural titles when the
book is about industrial England?
2. Does Hard Times have
a protagonist? Does it have a main character? What makes you think
so, and who might the main character be?
3. Hard Times begins
and ends with a meeting between Mr. Sleary and Mr. Gradgrind. How
are the meetings different? What changes in Mr. Gradgrind’s character
and values do we see between his first and last encounter with the
4. Discuss the character of Stephen
Blackpool. How does he represent the poor Hands in Hard
Times? Do you think it is an accurate representation? Is
it meant to be?
5. Hard Times is
built around a few simple, contrasting thematic ideas. What are
some of them, and how do
they function in the book? How does Louisa fit among these ideas?
6. As a child, Bitzer is a model
pupil at Gradgrind’s school. How does his conduct as a porter at
Bounderby’s bank reflect his early education? Would you consider
him a “success” according to Gradgrind’s criteria? Why or why not?
Ace your assignments with our guide to Hard Times!