Compare and contrast the characters of Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe in Hard Times.

In Hard Times, Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe in many ways are polar opposites. Louisa represents utilitarianism, materialism, and rationalism. Sissy represent magic, imagination, and kindheartedness. However, buried deep underneath her hard exterior, Louisa longs for the warmth that Sissy's life exhibits.

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Sissy Jupe and Louisa Gradgrind are in many was opposites in this novel, but they do share some commonalities.

Sissy, the daughter of a circus clown, represents the world of imagination and magic that Mr. Gradgrind would like to eradicate. She leads with her heart rather than her head. For...

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Sissy Jupe and Louisa Gradgrind are in many was opposites in this novel, but they do share some commonalities.

Sissy, the daughter of a circus clown, represents the world of imagination and magic that Mr. Gradgrind would like to eradicate. She leads with her heart rather than her head. For example, she frustrates Gradgrind by saying that the underlying principle of science is “to do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.” Likewise, when confronted with the utilitarian notion of the greatest good for the greatest number, Sissy worries about the people who are suffering, no matter how few they are.

In contrast, Louisa fully imbibes her father's emphasis on materialism and rationalism. She sets aside sentiment in favor of hardheaded calculation. For instance, she marries the wealthy and older Bounderby, though she doesn't love him, because he is rich.

However, the two characters are alike in that underneath it all, Louisa yearns for the loving heart that Sissy possesses in abundance. Louisa knows there is something wrong with her barren existence. For instance, when Louisa decides to marry Bounderby, she and Sissy's eyes meet for a moment in a way that communicates that Louisa knows she is not following her heart, therefore perhaps making a mistake. At the end of the novel, too, Louisa takes delight in Sissy's children for themselves, not their utility value.

Sissy and Louisa pursue different paths—a heart path versus a head path—but on some level Louisa, cold as she is, is always aware that Sissy represents something important that is missing from her own life.

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