Posted: April 18th, 2021
Louisa and Sissy: Fact against fancy in Hard Times. Two female characters in Hard Times, Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe could be considered contrastive by fate and there is moral fable in this contrast. It is significant that in last two paragraphs of the novel Dickens applies to motherhood as a sense of woman happiness.
Daughter of main educator of Coketown, have got only the bitter questionnaire: “Herself again a wife – a mother – lovingly watchful of her children, ever careful that they should have a childhood of the mind no less than a childhood of the body, as knowing it to be even a more beautiful thing, and a possession, any hoarded scrap of which, is a blessing and happiness to the wisest? Did Louisa see this? Such a thing was never to be. ”(Chapter 9, Final, p. 274) But Sissy, “Girl number twenty” (Chapter 1,p. ) in Gradgrind list, was granted with love and motherhood in return for her human virtue: “ But, happy Sissy’s happy children loving her; all children loving her; she, grown learned in childish lore; thinking no innocent and pretty fancy ever to be despised; trying hard to know her humbler fellow-creatures, and to beautify their lives of machinery and reality with those imaginative graces and delights,… or fancy dress, or fancy fair; but simply as a duty to be done, – did Louisa see these things of herself?
These things were to be. ” (Chapter 9, Final, p. 274) What is the major difference between two of them and why author gives credits to simple-minded Sissy, and left sorrows for educated Louisa? The reader can understand, that Gradgrind was disappointed with Sissy from the very beginning. He didn’t like the fact, that her father works in the circus. Fun and imagination were beyond Gradgrind’s acceptation. Sissy failed with factual definition of the horse in the very beginning of the novel and becomes a loser in his eyes.
But his own daughter, Louisa, has to struggle with inner conflict:”fire with nothing to burn”(Ch. 3) Her imagination was suppressed up to degree of starving under the pressure of that utilitarian educational virtue of “fact”. Trying to see a circus she and her brother Tom peep though the loophole. Being asked about, she simply answered: ‘Wanted to see what it was like” (Ch. 8). Somehow she neglected her father’s slogan: ”Louisa, never wonder! ”(Ch. 8) In the article Charles Dickens, Hard times: for these times Chris Bilton says: “The only escape from this relentless grind of alculation and rationality is the horse-riding circus, glimpsed tantalisingly by Gradgrind’s children through a hole in the tent. Here is food for the ‘idle imagination’ and ‘fancy’ their father denies them” Louisa and her brother are deemed to have the best, as their father is a very knowledgeable man and they are “model children” in “model house”, but “ starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened it’s expression”. Dickens is depicturing that Louisa knows so many facts, but has not much to imagine.
This “ metallurgical Louisa” used to look out the window at the factory chimneys and observe: “There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke. Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out. ” She can only state a fact about her surroundings. Dickens shows how forced education in a militant style can hurt a developing mind more than help it. Attentive reader can recognize intonation of reproach in her timid speech: “You have been so careful of me, that I never had a child’s dream.
You have dealt so wisely with me, father, from my cradle to this hour, that I never had a child’s belief or a child’s fear” . But the most dramatic moment happened in the very end of Book The Second, then mental breakdown happened to Louisa and Gradgrind “laid her down there, and sow the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an insensible heap, at his feet” (p. 204) Sissy Jupe in other hand, also was treated by Gradgrind’s system.
But she was a daughter of the circus clown, and spent early childhood in lively atmosphere, surrounded by emotional people, who taught her other things, then facts: In the article “Taking Dickens to task:Hard Times once more” Malkolm Pittok states: ” For the circus has as its raison d’etre the development of ‘useless’ and ‘unproductive’acrobatic skills, the dramatic enactment of highly coloured fictions, and a mode of fanciful, and fancifully advertised, play.
In direct contrast to the selfish individualism promoted by Gradgrindism, its members show a generous solidarity and human directness of response. ”(p. 116) Gradgrid was trying to influence this foil with his utilitarian approach, but he failed. She depictured as emotional girl from the very beginning: “Sissy Jupe, Sir”, explained number twenty, blushing…(Ch 2, p 8) Sissy began living with the Gradgrind family, and indirectly helped them to understand, that something in their life was missed. Love and care were unknown virtues in this family. “Only Sissy Jupe, the finest flower of the ircus way of life, has influence where it matters and becomes a beacon of effective light and goodness – a model for all of us to aspire to”, says Pittock. Louisa and Sissy have significant dialog in the Book The Third, Chapter 1. Louisa begging for her friendship: “Forgive me, pity me, help me! Have compassion on my great need, and let me lay this head of mine upon a loving heart! ”(p. 210) So the “poor girl” becomes the only “loving heart” for Gradgrind’s family. She took care of Mrs. Gradgrind and after he death becomes a mother to younger children of this family.
So it is right time to conclude, that fancy wins the fact as far as Sissy granted with female happiness in the very end of Hard Tines and educated Louisa went through mental suffer and appeared childless. To state, that motherhood is the only virtue of female life is not right, but there not too much left for woman, if she never ever experienced the happiness of motherhood. Works Cited: Bilton, Chris Charles Dickens, Hard times: for these times. International Journal of Cultural Policy Vol. 16, No. 1, February 2010, 15–16 Web 03 Nov 2011 Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. Oxford University Press, New York, 2008. Print.
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