Hard Times is the tenth novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1854. The book appraises English society and highlights the social and economic pressures of the times. It is unusual in several respects. It is by far the shortest of Dickens' novels, barely a quarter of the length of those written immediately before and after it. Also, unlike all but one of his other novels, Hard Times has neither a preface nor originally any illustrations. Moreover, it is his only novel not to have scenes set in London. Instead the story is set in the fictitious Victorian industrial Coketown, a generic Northern English mill-town, in some ways similar to Manchester, though smaller. Coketown may be partially based on 19th-century Preston. The story pairs two ill-fated marriages, one at its end, the other at its inception. The story is full of sharp passages and illustrious metaphors and Dickens’s greatness is present throughout the novel. One of Dickens's reasons for writing Hard Times was that sales of his weekly periodical, Household Words, were low, and it was hoped the novel's publication in instalments would boost circulation – as indeed proved to be the case.
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