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THE NOVEL
OTHER ELEMENTS

MINOR THEMES

  1. LOYALTY
    Examples of loyalty (and its absence) are seen throughout the novel. Sissy remains loyal to her father and his memory, even though he deserted her. Rachael and Stephen are loyal to one another over the years despite their inability to be married. They both remain loyal to Mrs. Blackpool- he by enduring her presence, and Rachael by caring for her- when she comes to town. The most touching example of loyalty is Merrylegs, Jupe's dog, who leaves his master only after the old man is dead.

    Those who prove to have no sense of loyalty include Tom, who turns away from Louisa, his devoted sister; Bounderby, who shuns his mother; Stephen's fellow workers, who reject him when he won't join the union; and Bitzer, who turns against his mentor, Gradgrind.


  2. PARENT AND CHILD
    Portraits of parents and their children figure significantly in Hard Times. Only Sissy and her father are seen in a positive light. All the others reveal mistreatment or indifference: Gradgrind and his brood; Bounderby and Mrs. Pegler; and Bitzer, who sends his mother to a workhouse.

  3. IMPRISONMENT
    The theme of imprisonment works both literally and symbolically. The workers of Coketown are imprisoned by their jobs and their lives, since they have no other place to go to find work. Stephen is trapped in this way, but also by the bonds of marriage, which for him are tightly wound. Gradgrind and Bounderby are imprisoned by their respective philosophies. Louisa is a prisoner of her father's educational principles. And all the characters are shackled by a society that cares less for them than it does for the "well-being" of the economy. Only Sissy, who follows the Golden Rule, seems free from these bonds, and it is she alone who "escapes" to happiness by the novel's end.

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© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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