how does hard times by charles dickens reflect contemporary gender roles?

expert answers

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gender roles do indeed appear frequently in charles dickens's novel hard times. let's look at some instances where they are especially present.

louisa gradgrind is a dutiful daughter. her father has taught her to lack sentimentality and pay attention only to “facts.” his associate, mr. josiah bounderby, decides that he wants to marry louisa—despite the significant age gap between the two—and her father agrees. louisa agrees out of obedience to her father and at the request of her brother, tom, who wants to work his way up in bounderby's bank. louisa's quiet acquiescence to this less-than-desirable marriage is a clear reflection of traditional gender roles; she never speaks her mind and allows the men in her life to make decisions for her.

later in the novel, louisa is tempted by the attentions of james harthouse, who tries to seduce her. he tries to prey on louisa because of her dissatisfying marriage, and it almost works. louisa is susceptible to harthouse's advances, and she nearly runs away with him; however, she returns to her father's house at the last minute and finally asserts her desires about her life and marriage.

with the help of sissy jupe, a strong female figure, louisa discovers that tom is a thief. the two help him get away, thereby reversing conventional gender roles and allowing the women to rescue the man. no one ends up truly happy at the end of the story, however, for the characters are still too focused on “facts” and lack sentiment.

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