_Hard Times_ is a familiarly sentimental work by Dickens. This is especially the case regarding the character of Sissy Jupe, an overly sweet, innocent young girl who is abandoned by her father. Dickens seems determined to tug at the heart strings with this character.
Dickens does an admirable job in covering new ground concerning the factory owners and bankers exploitation of the poor, as well as exploring the beginnings of labor unrest in 1850's England. There is much for the factory laborer to be unhappy with in Cokestown, where the factories belch out dirty, polluted smoke all day long. Dickens combines these issues with his examination of the difficulties inherent in parenting and gives truth to the old adage that how the branch is bent, so grows the tree. Through much grief and contrition years later, school master Thomas Gradgrind learns that a cold, no nonsense approach to bringing up his daughter Louisa and his son, Tom, was wrong. Louisa has a good heart and dotes on her younger brother, but is otherwise very distrustful of humanity and exists in the world suffused in apathy; Tom is simply, as Dickens calls him, "a whelp", and a dishonest one at that. Louisa marries Josiah Bounderby, a banker who turns his nose up at the factory hands and mocks their aspirations to move up in the world. Bounderby refers to these individuals as trying to put a "gold spoon" in their mouths. The actions of Bounderby and the Gradgrinds directly lead to tragic consequences for Stephen Blackpool, an honest and courageous loom worker, who merely chooses not to be involved with the townspeople or their labor leader. Another old truth that there is no justice in the world is as real today as it was in Dickens' time.