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Hard Times, Dickens's shortest novel and one of his major triumphs, tells the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system. Yet even as the development of the story reflects Dickens's growing pessimism about human nature and society, Hard Times marks his return to the theme which had made his early works so popular: the amusements of the people.