Hard Times Essay, Research Paper
_Hard Times_ was first published in _Household Words_ as a series and then compiled into 3 books. Dickens intertwined several people’s lives in these writings. Louisa had two very different relationships with her father and brother. Louisa’s relationship with her father is one where she believes at first that he is just using her to show how his “facts and only the facts” teachings work, and later she finds out that he really loves her and cares deeply for her. Unlike her relationship with Tom, her brother, which starts out with her believing that he loves her and cares deeply for her, and later she finds out that he was only using her.
Louisa’s relationship with her father changes with each stage of their lives. Mr. Gradgrind is a man of means who is very interested in the school of facts, and he wants he children to rely on nothing but facts. When we are first introduced to this relationship, Louisa is very mouthy and rebellious. Louisa and Young Tom were caught peeping at the circus by their father. Mrs. Gradgrind asked Louisa why she was peeping at the circus when she knew better than to have anything to do with something other than facts. Louisa stated “That’s the reason!” (19) Mr. Gradgrind approaches Louisa about marrying Mr. Bounderby, and her attitude is subdued. The father is proud of the fact that Louisa has no sentiment. “You are not impulsive, you are not romantic, you are accustomed to view everything from the strong dispassionate ground of reason and calculation.” (75) But when she asks her father if he thinks she loves Mr. Bounderby, he gets extremely uncomfortable because she is asking him about emotions. After the father recovers from that question, he starts stating the facts. The facts of this case are “You are, we will say in round numbers, twenty years of age; Mr. Bounderby is, we will say in round numbers, fifty. There is some disparity in your respective years, but in your means and positions, there is none; on the contrary, there is a great suitability.” (76-7)
Louisa comes back to her father’s house when she is confused about whether to cheat on her husband, whom she hates, or not. She comes to her father for comfort and finds it. Louisa talks to her father and tells him that she hates her life with Mr. Bounderby and that someone else has come into her life that really cares for her. “All that I know is, your philosophy and your teaching will not save me. Now, father, you have brought me to this. Save me by some other means!” (163) He was broken hearted when he “saw the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an insensible heap, at his feet.” (163) “For all his love and genuine desire to do right her father entirely fails to understand her nature.” (378) Mr. Gradgrind admits his failure in the system of teaching that he was so proud of. “I have proved my – my system to myself, and I have rigidly administered it; and I must beat the responsibility of its failures. I only entreat you to believe, my favourite child, that I have meant to do right.” (165) Louisa ensures him that she believes him and does not fault him with her unhappy life. Mr. Bounderby comes to Mr. Gradgrind’s house to get Louisa to come back to him. Mr. Gradgrind tells him that they have both misunderstood her and that she needs to stay where she is for right now. When Mr. Bounderby pushes further, Mr. Gradgrind stands up for his daughter and takes the blame on himself for the failure of their marriage.
Louisa, in return for her father’s love and understanding of her, comes to regard him as an advisor when she asks his advise on whether to see Mr. Bounderby, Tom and Rachel. She also was there to help and support her father with the news of Tom’s robbery of the bank and the framing of the innocent Stephen Blackpool. She tries to comfort her father by telling him that “you have three young children left. They will be different, I will be different yet, with Heaven’s help.” (203)
The relationship between Louisa and Tom, her brother, is a very complex one. When Louisa and Tom get caught peeping at the circus, Louisa takes the blame for herself and for Tom. Mr. Gradgrind accuses Tom of taking Louisa to the circus when Louisa says “I brought him, father. I asked him to come.” (16) Even from this early stage we can see that Louisa is trying to protect Tom. Later when Louisa and Tom are talking about their lives, Tom is looking forward to leaving his home to go and work for Mr. Bounderby. Tom tells Louisa that he knows how to handle Mr. Bounderby; all Tom has to do is tell him that Louisa would be disappointed in him. So we see Tom taking advantage of Mr. Bounderby’s feelings for his sister. When Mr. Gradgrind approaches Louisa about the marriage proposal from Mr. Bounderby, after Tom has left home, we find Louisa “quiet and reserved.” (73)
There is a hint of a forbidden love between the brother and sister. When they were together alone they were often touching each other such as when Tom is telling Louisa about Mr. Bounderby’s and their father’s conference. “Her brother glanced at her face with greater interest than usual, and encircling her waist with his arm, drew her coaxingly to him.” (74) And then, “he pressed her in his arm, and kissed her check. She returned the kiss.” (74) Sometimes Tom is the aggressor and sometimes it is Louisa, “she came and kissed him, and went back into her corner again.” (43) This love that Louisa had for her brother was noticeable to Mr. Harthouse noticed that her face “changed so beautifully” (126) when her brother came around. After Louisa was married and Tom had robbed the bank she went to Tom’s room in the middle of the night with only a loose robe on and “she laid her head down on his pillow, and her hair flowed over him as if she would hide him from every one but herself.” (142). “It is possible to hear the tones of a lover in these words;” (364) “As I am here beside you, barefoot, unclothed, undistinguishable in darkness.” (142) Daniel Deneau believes that the way Tom and Louisa were isolated and schooled is what caused them to “experience an abnormal brother-sister relationship.” (363)
Louisa would do anything for Tom and anything to protect him. Tom tells Mr. Harthouse that Louisa married Mr. Bounderby for him, “She would do anything for me.” (103) Bernard Shaw has this to say about “her marriage, which is none the less an act of prostitution because she does it to obtain advantages for her brother and not for herself.” (337) Louisa told Mr. Harthouse that she found Tom, after her marriage, heavily in debt. “Heavily enough to oblige me to sell some trinkets.” (129), items that were gifts from her husband. Louisa felt obligated to take care of Tom financially again and again.
After Louisa confided in Mr. Harthouse, he helps her see how Tom has always taken advantage of her. Louisa believes that Tom robbed the bank as she tells her father
“I fear so, father. I know he had wanted money very much, and had spent a great deal.” (203) When Tom was running after the robbery, his selfishness came out when he told Louisa that she had gone home “just when I was in the greatest danger” and “you never cared for me.” (210) This shows that Tom took advantage of the love Louisa had for him. Later when Tom had been on his own for a long time in exile, he came to realize how much he loved her and wanted to come home “with hope of seeing her.” (218) Louisa got a letter that said Tom “died in penitence and love of you: his last word being your name.” (218)
Louisa was often misunderstood and taken advantage of by her father and brother. Mr. Gradgrind used her to prove how well his school of facts worked. He didn’t think she needed to use her imagination or have any form of sentiment, which he later admitted was a cause for her downfall. Tom used Louisa to protect him against their father, Mr. Bounderby, and his creators. Dickens did a great job intertwining the characters lives from the different social classes in his writing of _Hard Times_.
Barnard, Robert. “Imagery and Theme in Hard Times.” _Hard Times-_. By Dickens. Ed. George Ford and Sylvere Monod. 2nd ed. New York:Norton, 1990. 367-79.
Deneau, Daniel. “The Brother-Sister Relationship in Hard Times.” .” _Hard Times-_. By Dickens. Ed. George Ford and Sylvere Monod. 2nd ed. New York:Norton, 1990. 362-7.
Dickens, Charles. .” _Hard Times-_. Ed. George Ford and Sylvere Monod. 2nd ed. New York:Norton, 1990. 7-219.
Shaw, Bernard. “Hard Times.” .” _Hard Times-_. By Dickens. Ed. George Ford and Sylvere Monod. 2nd ed. New York:Norton, 1990. 333-40.