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.
- 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.
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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