Write a critical and explanatory note on Mrs. Sparsit and Cecilia Jupe.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In Hard Times, Dickens embodies a villainous conniving female in Mrs. Sparsit and a heroic warmhearted female in Cecilia Jupe, also called Sissy. In typical Dickensian fashion, Mrs. Sparsit's name gives away her characteristics. She is sparse in human compassion and goodness; rather like an "it" more appropriate for the facts and figures of Gradgrind's school than a human appropriate for living in the world with other humans. Cecilia's namesake is the blind virgin Christian martyr of the second or third century whose name means one who is blind. Taken in Dickensian terms, this indicates a noble blindness to judging others weaknesses and errors. Cecilia the blind is a patron saint and Sissy became like a patron to Louisa when she came to Louisa's rescue by ordering Harthouse out of town.

Mrs. Sparsit is a malicious woman with no lovingkindness in her bitterly disappointed soul. She desires to ruin Bounderby's marriage to Louisa in order to fulfill her own desire of marrying Bounderby herself, thereby re-elevating her financial and social position; she is an elite aristocrat who fell from society and wealth through a bad marriage that went very bad and ended. Deceitful, dishonest and manipulative, Mrs. Sparsit has no trouble falsly accusing Louisa of immoral behavior with Mr. Harthouse, which she does partly out of revenge for Louisa for spoiling her pleasant situation with her marriage to Bounderby and partly out of a ploy to get rid of Louisa so her own dreams of marriage can be fulfilled.

Cecilia Jupe's surname probably hearkens back to the Middle English word "jubbe," which is a metonymic name for a person whose occupation is that of a cooper and which refers to a four-gallon barrel. This reinforces, in Dickensian style, the concept of Cecilia being full of human kindness and compassion. The deserted daughter of a circus performer, Mr. Gradgrind gives her shelter and an education at his school that advances the primacy of facts and figures over the higher human qualities of the heart, which are the only qualities that Sissy has in abundance. She is not only warmhearted but also courageous since she faces up to Harthouse and prevents him from bothering Louisa any further than he has already done.

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