Posted at 12.16.2018
Hard Times illustrates the depression and progression of men and women respectively. It follows the role of women in Victorian society, where women were associated by specific, stereotypical traits such as sensitivity and transparency, but develops into a story highlighting the importance of femininity in society. Hard Times professes Dickens's views on femininity, as he prophesises and analyses the true nature of women.
During the reign of Queen Victoria, a woman's place was within the house. A woman's mind was seen as only competent to perform certain domestic and mothering jobs, which was seen as sufficient emotional fulfilment. However, through the Victorian Era the role of women extended and Victorian feminism commenced to emerge. Cecilia Jupe embodies and epitomises the Victorian femininity that regulates mechanization and engineering. During the first chapter Sissy or 'girl number twenty' is basically portrayed as the incapable girl, who believes that flowers should be cast after the floor, much to her alter ego's, Mr Gradgrind's disgust. Among Sissy's original traits was her constant blushing and curtseying; women were compassionate and polite, never arguing rather than having an impression. Cecilia is again portrayed as incompetent when she actually is asked to define a horse, however is unable and shown up by an exaggerated ideal Gradgrind in the making, Bitzer, who with ease programmes his mind to calculate an exact answer and proves his right to be called a guy, or machine. By the end of the chapter it appears Gradgrind slams a door on Cecilia's mind telling her 'you are never to fancy' and lectures his students on the value of 'facts, facts, facts' but easily am not mistaken this translates to 'Men, Men, Men'. Sissy is an emotional girl, represented in her blushing blood filled cheeks, will not confine in Gradgrinds fact/men only perspective. She's personality and opinions and becomes a missing piece in the Gradgrind machine, flipping the storyplot upside down.
The character of Cecilia Jupe is considerably contrasted by the performance of Thomas Gradgrind and his promotion of philosophy of rationalism, egotism, and raw, rigid fact. He is portrayed as a rigid man, largely with Dickens comical interpretation of the man's appearance; "square coat, square legs, square shoulders, " Gradgrind is a solid product of utilitarianism; a strong belief in facts and numbers, common in the nineteenth century. Utilitarianism followers believed only things with a specific function are worth having, no beauty, no decorations, and no flowers on the carpet. Gradgrind represents what was a man; an able mind full of facts, has authority and does not have any dependence on fancy. Bitzer is the perfect pupil in Gradgrinds mind; he is packed with facts and nothing else. He does not have any individual life, opinions or fancy. He has a cold, lifeless exterior. I believe the paleness of his skin represents his inexpressive mind. Everything else reflects off him, and draws all personality out of him, Dickens says 'he would bleed white' which symbolises how inhumane he and Gradgrind are. This major contrast between Cecilia and Gradgrind/Bitzer becomes a war between your sexes, and over the course of the book one largely triumphs above the other.
Louisa is Grandgrind's daughter, later becoming Bounderby's wife. Confused by her cold-hearted childhood, Louisa feels detached from her thoughts and alienated from other folks. Louisa becomes the primary female character, however will not embody the Victorian feminine characteristics as Sissy does. Instead Louisa is becoming cold and lifeless through the life of her father. While at first Louisa struggling to comprehend and function within the grey matter of emotions, she can at least recognise their existence and will be more influential within society than her father or Bounderby lead her to trust, even without the factual basis. By using Sissy and Rachel, Louisa grows and progresses, blooming into a model woman. She defines the storyline. As she grows and changes as does the storyplot, she actually is the timeline of feminism and her breakthrough symbolises the start of female equality.
With her 'Roman' and 'exploding' nose, Mrs Sparsit became a significant comical character within CRISIS. Employed and finally dramatically fired by Bounderby on her behalf selfish, manipulative, dishonest antics, she plots to overturn Bounderby's marriage in hope of 1 day taking Louisa's place. Mrs Sparsit becomes an integral detective in CRISIS, taking it after herself to discover who robbed the lender, probably in hope of impressing Bounderby. Mrs Sparsit largely comes under the fire of Dickens's hyperbole. His regular mocking of her particularly large nose, attempts to shadow her extraordinary character. I believe Dickens is scared of her character and scared of appearing too 'pro-women' and must restore a little amount dignity by mocking a female. Her character is so strong and 'unladylike' he must fault her. She is the contrary of what sort of woman was seen, and must therefore turn her into a comic. I think Dickens is very fond of Mrs Sparsit and ruins her passionate character to cover up his affection.
Eventually, after the introduction of all the characters they slowly progress and attack the plot. The feminine characters begin to do this and wake from their sleep.
'Louisa awoke from a torpor' if I were to summarise the storyplot with one sentence this would whether it be. This quote defines the plot, and the Victorian situation. Dickens tells us the Louisa along with all women are awakening into realisation. Louisa is waking from her nightmare counter life, where Gradgrind decoyed her conscious, and being born as a woman ready to tackle the planet. Louisa's story can be related to many modern fairytales where the women are placed to sleep until saved and cut back to society. Sleeping Beauty tells the storyplot of a passive, nave girl being put under a spell. Much like the spell Gradgrind bounded Louisa with. The only path to release the spell was a kiss, an icon of emotion. Louisa was 'kissed' by Sissy and Rachel with thoughts and unleashed.
After the rebirth of Louisa the evil Gradgrind machine imploded. With Louisa increasing individual perspective on life she soon realised her marriage was not worth suffering for and confesses her depression her father. Gradgrind becomes conscious that his system of facts was at fact a failure. Confirmed by the learning of Tom robbing the bank Gradgrind admits "The ground which I stand has ceased to be solid under my feet. " His children have taught him something. Following my decision the reality equalled men, I really believe this system symbolises the inequality of men vs women. The destruction of the system resulted in Gradgrind recognizing the potential of women; in the end "making his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope and Charity. "
Sissy's journey does not develop up to she was waiting for the world to develop around her. Sissy was ready from the beginning however she couldn't bloom until her confidence grew. She eventually grew and woke Louisa up. Sissy triggered all other developments of femininity and became the blushing epicentre of women.
In conclusion, Hard Times tracks and predicts the progression of feminism within the earth. Through the many female characters in the novel, Dickens shows that feminine compassion is vital to revive social harmony. We are able to assume that Dickens was a concealed feminist, whether he tried to mask it with mocking humour or not, this piece of feminine ante litteram highlights Dickens ingenuity and feminine side. It's his protest or warning, informing society increasing and bloom of women.