Course Hero Logo
Literature Study GuidesHard TimesBook 1 Chapter 1 Summary

Hard Times | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Hard Times Study Guide." Course Hero. 4 May 2017. Web. 1 June 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, May 4). Hard Times Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Hard Times Study Guide." May 4, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2023.


Course Hero, "Hard Times Study Guide," May 4, 2017, accessed June 1, 2023,

Book 1, Chapter 1: Sowing (The One Thing Needful)

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Book 1, Chapter 1: Sowing (The One Thing Needful) from Charles Dickens's novel Hard Times.

Hard Times | Book 1, Chapter 1 : Sowing (The One Thing Needful) | Summary



A man makes a speech in a classroom. He demands the teaching and learning of "nothing but Facts," as facts are the only useful way to create rational minds. The man is not yet named in this scene, but his physical appearance underscores his demand for facts, with a "square forefinger" pointing, "square wall of a forehead," and "square coat, square legs, and square shoulders." His head is bald and knobby, ringed with bristles of hair, and his commanding voice projects from a thin "hard set" mouth. The schoolmaster and the other adults, along with the students, back slightly away from his authoritative presentation in the large, bare schoolroom.


None of the adults in the room are named in the opening chapter, with Thomas Gradgrind, the speaker, identified in the first line of Chapter 2. The anonymity of the speaker when he is introduced allows his demand for facts to stand on its own. His appearance also stands on its own, and the repeated use of the word square to describe his stature and face emphasizes his rigidity, his conventionality. In modern terms he is not just thinking inside the box, he is the box in a very literal sense as well as in the way he circumscribes and constrains the thinking of all those around him to seek and use only facts. As readers will discover, this limited view of education will turn out not to be the only education needed for a person's life, as living demands the ability to deal with emotional situations as well.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Hard Times? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!