What is the conclusion of the novel Hard Times?

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

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At the end of this excellent novel, we are shown the futures that the omniscient and god-like narrator assigns to each of the central characters. There does seem to be a certain extent to which good characters are given good endings and "bad" characters are given what they deserve. For example, Bounderby is exposed as a big fraud and an imminent death, Mrs. Sparsit it sent away to an uncertain and rather grim future with Lady Scadgers. Tom does escape being arrested but realises the errors of his ways to late and dies pining for his sister. Sissy, as befitting her morally good character, lives happily. The one exception is the fate of Stephen Blackpool. Although it appears he welcomes death as an ending to what has been for him a rather miserable life, he dies leaving Rachel to face the struggles of life alone without him.

However, there are some characters who are not classified into the narrow categories of "good" and "bad," and these characters offer somewhat more interesting endings to be considered. Mr. Gradgrind for example is ironically forced to rely on the circus, which he at the beginning of the novel deplored as the place of fantasy and everything that opposed his fact-based philosophy, to save his son. He is left at the end of the novel trying to help the poor but receiving scorn from the very politicians he helped establish.

Louisa as well is a very interesting example of a character whose fate we might wish to debate. We are told that she has a very close relationship with Sissy's children and yet no family of her own. On the one hand, she has her liberty and is not trapped by either Harthouse or Bounderby, yet on the other hand her lonely existence could be regarded as slightly unjust, and we are left questioning to what extent she was responsible for her own fate and how much is her father to blame.

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