1) Discuss the theme of parental responsibility in Dickens’s Hard Times. Refer to specific passages and scenes from the novel. Throughout the book Hard times by Charles Dickens there is a theme of parental responsibly or more appropriately, parental irresponsibility. This is majorly highlighted through the relationship between Mr Grandgrind and his two children, Tom and Louisa. We also can see an irresponsible parent relationship between sissy Jupe and her father. Mr Grandgrind only thought that teaching facts to his children was the only element that they required; whereas sissy Jupe’s uneducated father Signor Jupe could only provide the imaginative teachings. The brief opposite comparison between both fathers, show that our parents need to have balance in their teachings in order to raise fully functioning adults.
Throughout the novel we can see that Mr Grandgrind believes in only teaching the young, nothing but facts when he states “Facts alone are wanted in life” (Dickens 9). The theme of a factual world is clearly emphasised throughout the book and is questioned by the reader. Mr Grandgrind comes across as a character that loves his children; he nurtures them, cares for them, and provides shelter, education and food for them. He does all the things that a responsible parent should; except for providing them with childhood filled with wonders. This is evident through the lack of imaginative and creative endeavours, which brought about the demise of Tom and Louisa’s childhood. His lack of awareness to teach his children both fact and fancy, led him to betrayed as an irresponsible father.
Mr Grandgrind and his relationship with Louisa evolve throughout the novel due to their realisation of appropriate teachings. Both Mr Grandgrind and Louisa come to the reality that Grandgrind’s teaching system had failed. When Louisa grew up and realised that she had missed out on having a fulfilled childhood, due to never being enlightened by the fantastic world she approaches her father. Louisa blames her father for her unhappiness and is saddened by her unsatisfied life. Louisa emphasises her lost childhood to her father when she states:
You have been so careful of me, that I never had a child’s heart. You have trained me so well, that I never dreamed 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. (Dickens 101)
This quote reinforces Louisa’s negative views on her disheartened childhood; however still in a way that shows the audience Grandgrind’s proactive parenting responsibilities. This is done through the use of words such as ‘careful’, ‘trained’ and ‘wisely’ to describe Grandgrind’s parenting approach. Dickens uses the relationship between Grandgrind and Louisa to emphasise the idea that fact and fancy needs to be balanced in order to live a content life.
In comparison to the opposite Grandgrind relationship, Dickens allows us to look at sissy Juppe’s relationship with her father signor Juppe. Sissy Juppe’s uneducated father could only fill her life with imagination and creativity due to his poor educated status. Signor Jupe only wanted the best for Sissy however due to his inability to provide her with satisfactory education, he abandoned her in hope that she would be raised with knowledge of both fact and fancy. This raises the question to the audience of parental responsibility. Was it irresponsible that he left his daughter with the uncertainty of what was to come, leaving with no explanation? Or was it more responsible to leave and allow his daughter to be provided with an education and be a well-balanced child? Most would say not due to the high levels of danger; however it was fortunate that Mr Grandgrind took on the responsibility of Sissy Juppe, as her father’s wishes became reality. Sissy Juppe became a loving, caring, compassionate and bright personality due to her...
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