Throughout Dickens Hard Times, the idea of parental responsibility is explored. This concept is seen the relationships of Gradgrind and his children, Louisa and Tom and indirectly through the abandonment of Sissy by Signor Jupe. While the idea of parental responsibility covers a wide aspect, Dickens explores the parental responsibility to develop morality in children and the parental responsibility to realise faults as a parent.
A key character that displays the theme of parental responsibility is Thomas Gradgrind. Gradgrind is a middle-class business man who prides himself on believe that only fact, math and things that are measureable are deemed important. It is based on this belief that shapes the way in which he raises his children, Louisa and Tom. Gradgrind's parental responsibility or lack of, can clearly be seen through Louisa. As Louisa has been raised under the harsh rules of Gradgrind she has developed a lack of morality and a hatred for her father. This can be seen when Louisa confronts Gradgrind one night confessing her almost affair with Harthouse. This confession comes after Harthouse reveals his feelings for Louisa and asks her to run away. When Louisa confesses to Gradgrind, he realises that through his form of teaching and not allowing his children to explore anything other than the idea of fact, he has messed with their sense of morality. This realisation highlights Gradgrind's lack of parental responsibility concerning Louisa morality yet also shows his responsibility when accepting that he has influenced these choices made by Louisa.
Similarly Gradgrind's lack of parental responsibility is seen is through his child Tom. Like Louisa, Tom was raised based on Gradgrind's theory of believing only in fact and developed a lack of morality and emotional maturity. This lack of morality is seen through Toms gambling and his robbery of Bounderby's bank. Tom robs Bounderby's bank to cover his financial debt and then frames Stephen for it as he sees the opportunity. Tom's lack of morality is also seen through him convincing and guilting Louisa into marry Bounderby.
"'You are very fond of me, an't you, Loo?... Well, sister of mine,' said Tom, 'when you say that, you are near my thoughts. We might be so much oftener together — mightn't we? Always together, almost — mightn't we? It would do me a great deal of good if you were to make up your mind to I know what, Loo. It would be a splendid thing for me. It would be uncommonly jolly!' Her thoughtfulness baffled his cunning scrutiny. He could make nothing of her face. He pressed her in his arm, and kissed her cheek. She returned the kiss, but still looked at the fire. 'I say, Loo! I thought I'd come, and...