An Old Dog Enters the Fray; or, Reading Hard Times as an Industrial Novel
Dickens Studies Annual
Although Dickens had wanted to write an industrial exposé as early as 1838, it was not until 1854 that he published what is widely read as his denunciation of industrial dehumanization, Hard Times. Had he included in Nicholas Nickleby a disquisition on industrial ills as he had considered, he would have been present at the birth of the subgenre; as it is, Hard Times appeared during the dying days of—to paraphrase Franco Moretti—the subgenre's life cycle. This essay examines the tropes and conventions of the genre as established by three predecessors, Frances Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Brontë, and argues that Dickens's rehearsal of the established tropes is tinged with fatigue and repetition rather than innovation. As an industrial novel, Hard Times marks the last gasp of a subgenre whose literary moment had passed.
“An Old Dog Enters the Fray; or, Reading Hard Times as an Industrial Novel.” Dickens Studies Annual, vol. 44, 221–241, Summer 2013.