This chapter looks at Dickens’s female characters, in an attempt to distinguish between characterisation that uses gender-specific language or stereotypes, and the more general picture of women as part of each novel’s population. As soon as we think about the female populations of Hard Times and Bleak House, we may start considering three groups. First, many of the women are filled with vanity, jealousy, spite, greed, ignorance and foolishness. Then, in stark contrast, there are good women such as Mrs. Bagnet and Mrs. Rouncewell, or Louisa Gradgrind/Bounderby. Finally, there are angelic women of infinite loyalty, love and patience, the obvious examples being Ada in Bleak House, and Rachael in Hard Times (as well as Sissy Jupe, who plays an active role in the final chapters). It is with these paragons, therefore, that we begin our investigation.
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