Hard Times

The Social Importance of Femininity: Gender Roles in Hard Times by Charles Dickens College

Gender roles are a basis for the family structure which supports the larger societal structure, Charles Dickens argues in Hard Times. Women, especially, as the bearers of children carry a large part of the burden of ensuring a balanced society. Women’s work and roles, therefore, is just as imperative to maintaining social order as the work of men. Through his characterization of various characters, mainly Louis Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe, Dickens showcases how fragile a woman’s upbringing is. Maintaining traditional gender roles is natural and Dickens fears that the “modern woman” is unnatural in that she has been raised to fill the roles of men. A woman without the traditional skills to raise a family, such as Louisa Gradgrind, will be unproductive in society. Self-worth in Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution, is based around productivity. Hard Times also follows suit with Thomas Carlyle’s’ philosophy that the natural, or traditional, order of life is the only way to begot productivity and balance in a society. In Past and Present he says “Nature finds a bill against you; your ‘Strength’ is not strength, but Futility!” (160). To not produce a futile generation of men, women must be raised accordingly to their...

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