What is the behavior of Louisa towards her father in the novel Hard Times?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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An excellent chapter to think about and study in depth with regard to this question in Chapter 15, entitled "Father and Daughter," when Gradgrind relates the proposal he has received to his daughter from Mr. Bounderby, asking Louise to be his wife. During this conversation between Louisa and her father, Louisa, not without certain irony, makes it precisely clear how her behavior has been affected by Mr. Gradgrind's educational philosophy that has brought her up and instructed her in the way of Facts:

The baby-preference that even I have heard of as common among children, has never had its innocent resting-place in my breast. 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.

Gradgrind, we are told, is "quite moved" by his "success," even though hopefully the astute reader will be appalled at the way he has robbed his daughter of her childhood. In spite of this rigidity and distanced view of life and her own future, in the same chapter, we are told that Louisa could have broken down and admitted to him how she really feels:

As he now leaned back in his chair, and bent his deep-set eyes upon her in his turn, perhaps he might have seen one wavering moment in her, when she was impelled to throw herself upon his breast, and give him the pent-up confidences of her heart. But, to see it, he must have overleaped at a bound the artificial barriers he had for many years been erecting, between himself and those subtle essences of humanity which will elude the utmost cunning of algebra until the last trumpet ever to be sounded shall blow even algebra to wreck. The barriers were too many and too high for such a leap. With his unbending, utilitarian, matter-of-fact face, he hardened her again, and the moment shot away into the plumbless depths of the past, to mingle with all the lost opportunities that are drowned there.

Louisa's behavior towards her father is therefore characterised by a whole host of "lost opportunities" that sink into the "plumbless depths of the past." Louisa, like any normal daughter, would love to confide in her father, but the barriers that he has erected make such a confidence impossible, sealing Louisa's fate to become Mrs. Bounderby.

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