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It is interesting that while female characters in other Dickens novels such as Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities or Agnes in David Copperfield represent the idealised view of women in the imagination of Dickens, in Hard Times the characters who best represent this view is Cecilia Jupe and Rachel, with Louisa Gradgrind and Mrs. Sparsit presenting incomplete notions of womanhood.
Sissy Jupe, in spite of her lack of educational achievements (from Gradgrind's point of view) shows herself to be the character who is relied upon by both Louisa and Mr. Gradgrind at the end of the novel, as she, unlike them, has not lost her imagination and the capacity to love. It is thus Sissy who has the "happy ending," with a husband and children. Rachel, with her "pensive beauty," is not given that happy ending, but her grace and beauty is shown through such actions as her constant love and regard for Stephen Blackpool, best demonstrated in her care of his drunken wife--the barrier to her and Stephen's happiness.
In contrast, Louisa, because of her education and upbringing, always has something absent. It is suggested that she is never fully able to emotionally connect with those around her, and thus is left to play with Sissy's children and be Sissy's companion, rather than having a productive and fulfillilng marriage. Mrs. Sparsit is a character who is presented as cynical, interfering and petty, and her attempts to manipulate Mr. Bounderby against his wife show the meanness of her character.
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