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A Self-Made Man: Hard Times and the Dickensian Impostor

  • Wieland Schwanebeck EMAIL logo


This essay examines the impostor trope within the works of Charles Dickens, focusing on the example of Josiah Bounderby, the villain of Hard Times (1854), in particular. As a product of the Victorian age’s obsession with character-building and the spirit of industriousness as epitomised in the work of Samuel Smiles, Bounderby not only embodies much of what Dickens found objectionable about utilitarian thought but also a number of tropes that were and remain crucial to the cultural imaginary of the United States (even though Hard Times only briefly alludes to America). As a charismatic rogue who tinkers with his own biography, Bounderby foreshadows the coming of the impostor in turn-of-the-century European literature, an aspect of Hard Times that has so far been overlooked in critical accounts of the novel.

Corresponding author: PD Dr. Wieland Schwanebeck, Institute of English and American Studies, TU Dresden, 01062 Dresden, Germany

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Published Online: 2019-12-11
Published in Print: 2019-12-18

©2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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