In Hard Times, love itself can be a positive or negative emotion, regardless of whether it occurs between romantic partners or parents and children. There are examples of socially sanctioned and nurturing domestic love. There's also spiritually uplifting love that inspires better behavior and the improvement of the self. And finally there's disturbed love that overreaches the normal boundaries of the relationship.
Questions About Love
- The novel features at least two examples of what looks like "true love" – Signor and Madame Jupe, and Stephen and Rachael. (Can you think of others?) How are these relationships similar? Why are both made to be doomed?
- How would Harthouse describe love? How about Tom Gradgrind? How about Mrs. Sparsit?
- Which is the strongest kind of love relationship in the novel: familial or romantic love? Which is more important? Is one shown as leading to the other?
- Who is most beloved in the novel? How is the act of being loved experienced by this person? By other characters?
Chew on This
This novel is actually a tragic love story, not a polemic about economic systems.
In Hard Times, the lower classes are emotionally more capable of loving and being loved, because they do not have the same kinds of distractions and opportunities that the upper classes enjoy.