Loyalty in “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Aug 24th, 2020


Charles Dickens is known for his direct criticism of social problems that were prominent at his time and had an enormous impact on the population. The novel titled “Hard Times” is frequently discussed all over the globe, and can be regarded as a masterpiece. The author observed a lot of issues and did not hesitate to critique them in an attempt to provoke discussions among scholars and politicians. It is clear that many people had to live in inhumane conditions, and some of the beliefs were incredibly questionable. The popularization of philosophical thinking is particularly interesting, and the writer describes severe complications that may occur when one is blindly devoted to such ideas and does not question them. This paper presents a critique of how loyalty is portrayed in the work.


The story is focused on the problems related to the industrial revolution and how it has affected society. Capitalism had fuelled the mistreatment of employees, and nobody had ever thought that there will come a time when all these injustices will be forgotten. Dickens’s novel reveals the struggles that parents, workers, and even children had to go through. They hand to ensure a lot of traumatic events to afford rent. The emergence of philosophical lives is perhaps one of the driving forces of changes that were witnessed during this era. The author describes various forms of loyalties and their prices in shaping the lives of the main characters in the novel.

Mr. Gradgrind, one of the central characters, is committed to ensuring that he raises his children and influences all people around him through a unique philosophical approach. He believed that individuals should analyze facts before making any significant decisions, and it would help them to improve the quality of their lives. However, his philosophy makes life difficult for his children and others. Moreover, he does not have an easy time living with those who oppose his approaches and it causes many disagreements. The author tries to grab the attention of readers with the line that states “you can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them” (Dickens 3). In other words, he did not accept anything else and the level of devotion to these ideas was enormous. Dickens was interested in highlighting how blind loyalty was a weakness even for powerful individuals.

For instance, the author ridicules this blind loyalty to Gradgrind’s philosophy and outlines various ways it has affected the lives of his children and people that surround him. The character expected his daughter Louisa to hide her feelings to the public or even other individuals, and this has led to issues related to interactions and communication patterns. Her father did not allow his children to attend the circus performances since he believed that they would corrupt their minds, and they would be exposed to evil people and other atrocities. Additionally, he did not let them make personal decisions and tried to ensure that they are controlled at every stage in their lives. The novel portrays the failure of Louisa’s father in raising her and blames this inept philosophy for breaking her marriage. She confronts him and condemns his questionable beliefs because they have led to her miseries. Thomas Gradgrind believes that his father’s Utilitarian education made his life miserable, and that is why he later became a bank robber, gambler, and alcoholic.

He blames all these problems on his father and believes that vital development stages were missed during his childhood because of his father’s loyalty to this philosophic approach. Dickens used these two characters to explain how parents make their children’s lives unbearable by insisting that they should follow specified ways of behaving. It is wrong for adults to think that they will raise responsible and successful children by forcing predetermined philosophies down their throats. It is not reasonable to interfere with a child’s decisions when it comes to their beliefs and lifestyle, but parents should always be near their children and guide them in making correct decisions that will guarantee them a successful life. A family’s loyalty should not be unconditional since this will make some of the members suffer. They had the right to disagree with him. However, it was too late, and such parenting had a long-lasting impact on their lives.

Stephen Blackpool, a Bounderby mills worker, is forced to be loyal and remain with his alcoholic wife regardless of the tribulations she puts him through during their marriage. He is committed to providing for his family and works hard to live a better life. Such situations are seen quite often even in modern society, and many do not view divorce as a reasonable choice. He is forced to live with his wife who disappears and re-appears as she wishes. His loyalty is unjustified because he is not valued but he still thinks that the situation may be improved in the future. Furthermore, this explains why unconditional family loyalty can be harmful and can affect a person’s lifestyle and future.

Bounderby’s relation to Bitzer, a bank employee, highlights the conflict of interest that arises when people are driven by capitalism, utilitarianism, and self-interest work together. A former bully is focused primarily on his interests and is not worried about the issues of others. His philosophy and selfishness become essential qualities of this character and define him. “I am not sure that you know that the whole social system is a question of self-interest” is a line that is particularly interesting (Dickens 339). Differently put, he is not afraid of speaking about his intentions and remains calm. Bounderby expected Bitzer to follow his philosophy of not having or following “unmanageable thoughts” but this could not have happened since each of these characters had different perceptions of how to live a successful life. His loyalty to his employer is betrayed when he is offered compensation not to arrest Thomas for robbing his employer’s bank, and he prioritizes benefits over integrity. He is not trustworthy, and it makes it difficult for both parties. Dickens mocks those who make particular philosophies vital parts of their lives without thinking about consequences.


In conclusion, it is quite evident that loyalty is a central topic in the story, and Dickens draws attention to complications that may occur when it is excessive, or one is not sincere. The writer was worried about society and wanted to ensure that the population understands that such behavior is inappropriate. Overall, it is possible to state that he succeeded because the narrative is quite comprehensive and he manages to keep the attention of readers.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. London, UK: Bradbury and Evans, 1854. Print.

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