Symbols And Motifs In ‘Hard Times’ By Charles Dickens

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Symbols or motifs are key elements in various novels and short stories, the use of these elements help depicts other things by offering them a different meaning that is more vivid and deep. In the novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens, there are countless amounts of symbols/ or motifs, Dickens uses characters, setting, and the structure of the novel, as a way to depict some of the many symbols/ or motifs in Hard Times. This allows the reader to find thoughts, and ideas, by giving the reader a symbolic meaning that is different from the literal meaning.

Many of the characters in the novel, Hard Times, represents a symbol/or motif. One of the symbols that Dickens uses in his novel, is that of fire, to depict this element is the character Louisa, she often gazes into the fireplace when she is alone as if she sees things in the flames that others, like her father and brother, can not see. From the very first book of the novel, Louisa is described as having a light and fire within her. “ there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow” (pg 17). Dickens, show how Louisa symbolizes a fire that even under her father’s demeaning rule it still burns, she has her own ideas and imagination, as the novel continues Louisa’s fire starts to go out. “fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow.”(pg 20). In the third book Dickens description suggests that Louisa’s fire isn’t completely burned out. Louisa has not entirely capitulated to her father’s prohibition against wondering and imagining. Her fire symbolizes the warmth created by her fantasies in her otherwise lonely existence. Louisa’s inner fire, her propensity to imagine, becomes very destructive, her emotions that she repressed eventually begin to burn “within her like an unwholesome fire.”(pg 64) Through this symbol, Dickens shows the importance of imagination as a force that can offset the mechanization of human nature.

Mrs. Sparsit was a character that, Dickens used as a to show how some symbols are to represent bad and good. in chapter 10, entitled ‘Mrs. Sparsit’s Staircase,’ the ‘staircase’ a staircase erected in Mrs. Sparsit’s mind as a symbol of Louisa’s eventual spiral down to shame and to the dark at the bottom, “But from this day, the Sparsit action upon Mr. Bounderby threw Louisa and James Harthouse more together, and strengthened the dangerous alienation from her husband and confidence against him with another, into which she had fallen by degrees so fine that she could not retrace them if she tried” (pg 108). Dickens depicts how Mrs. Sparsit imagines that Louisa is slowly descending a great staircase. The more Lousia and Harthouse gain a closer relationship the further down Louisa goes and when Louisa finally disgraces herself with Mr. Harthouse, Mrs. Sparsit imagines her stepping off the bottom of the staircase and falling into a dark


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