Of all the sorrowful characters in Hard Times, Louisa Gradgrind is perhaps the most tragic.
Although brought up in the upper social hierarchy of Coke town, a life refused of imagination and fancy has made Louisa Gradgrinds life a sorrowful one. Forced into a marriage with no love, later divorced and retarded of any true feelings or emotions her story is just the starting point of sad and tragic lives throughout hard times. Throughout hard times we see an underlying recurrence of unhappiness throughout the assortment of characters lives. Although a sad one Louisa Gradgrinds life is not the most tragic. Characters such as hand Stephen Blackpool tear at the heartstrings of readers, due to his misfortunes around every corner. Coming in a close second would be Louisa. Both characters share a sadness of life, in their own ways. Their lives no matter what social class show signs of sorrow and tragic events.
To describe Stephens life simply it would be to say that if he didnt have bad luck hed have no luck at all. Forced to stay in a marriage to an abusive and alcoholic wife, being denied of divorce simply because hes not the sort that can afford such things. Having to live in fear of his out of control wife returning, being ostracised by his fellow workers for making a promise to Rachael, the woman he loves, being told his feelings of love for Rachael were near criminal and being accused of robbing the Coketown bank, which indirectly lead to his death are all examples of the tragic situations he has been put through. Stephens life went from step to step never improving, no risk or nonsense just plodding along in life from birth to death. He experienced nothing but heartache and lived a life of repetition. His life began tragic and his life ended in the same way.
Louisa and Stephens sorrowful existences are contrasted in more ways than one throughout hard times. Louisa, a member of upper class Coketown lives in a life of luxury, with any thing of materialistic form at her fingertips. She although is starved of any sort of imagination or fanciful excitement and is taught only by the head and is deprived of the knowledge of the heart.
Stephen in contrast lives a life full of fantasy but as a poor factory worker, living in the Bronx of Coketown. Although contrasted against each other both Stephen and Louisa are bonded with their misfortunes. Due to circumstances beyond their control both were denied true love. Louisa having the chance taken from her by a world of hard facts, and Stephen being denied due to being in the wrong social class.
Stephen who wishes to marry his long time love Rachael, is denied the opportunity due to his financial and social status, a man who claims this woman to be in love with an angel, whos plans are thwarted by his stance in society, lives in anger toward the people who deny him a basic human right.
Louisa on the other hand is stuck in a marriage that has no love, feeling pressured into marrying Bounderby she becomes emotionless and self restricted. She has no chance to pursue the desires of her hidden heart, both physically unable to and not having the knowledge of the heart to chase the inner feelings.
Although a sad one, Louisas story of misfortunes cannot be singled out. This novel shows that social classes differ greatly, although there is no discrimination when it comes to lifes sorrow and pain.