Hard Times

Louisa as Victim

Charles Dickens' Hard Times is a bleak book. Its characters are a collection of victims and victimizers, each pitiable or damnable. Of this sorrowful lot, perhaps the most tragic individual is Louisa Gradgrind. Ingrained since childhood with various "Facts" and " - ologies," Louisa is rendered emotionally sterile by her "eminently empirical" father, her "whelp" of a brother, and her boorish husband. When a charismatic young charmer unleashes within her a flood of feeling, she recognizes her life to be empty, and is deeply changed. Louisa's transition, from a model of "Fact" to a victim thereof, is a profound event, and forms the climax of the major plot line. Dickens crafts the metamorphosis expertly in the chapters immediately following the bank robbery (VIII through XII of Book II) by sending Louisa through a carefully structured sequence of events - metaphorically described by Mrs. Sparsit as a "staircase." These events show Louisa to be a complex and dynamic character, able to recognize her misery, yet unable to escape it.

Dickens first sets Louisa toward her transition after the bank robbery. Louisa fears her brother Tom may know something about what...

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