The 'terrible mistake' was the contemporary utilitarian philosophy,
expounded in Hard Times (1854) as the Philosophy of Fact by the
hard-headed disciplinarian Thomas Gradgrind. But the novel,
Dickens's shortest, is more than a polemical tract for the times;
the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father is one of
Dickens's triumphs. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage,
falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to
reconsider his cherished system.
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