In both stories, these ideas are more important than the characters: but I think that in Hard Times the characters play a much more important role than in the Star, as they are described in much more detail and depth. Like Hard Times, the surroundings in the Star connote ideas of entrapment and claustrophobia. The phrase "monotonous vault" in Hard Times suggests a prison like feeling to the schoolroom, while in the Star, "enclosing tenements" connotes a similar feeling about Cameron's neighbourhood.
An important message in both stories is that no matter how hard you try to suppress imagination, it will always resurface. In Hard Times, this is represented by the phrase, "dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within- or sometimes only maim and distort him! " This message is also reflected in the Star by the child disobeying the teacher and swallowing the star instead of handing it to the teacher. Dickens describes his characters in great detail, using similes and metaphors.
For example, there is a lengthily description of Mr. Gradgrind being likened a building in chapter one. In Hard Times, Dickens how a character will act is reflected in their name. "Gradgrind" suggests gradually grinding, which is what Mr. Gradgrind does; he gradually grinds the children into his image of what a person should be. Dickens also hints to us how we are meant to feel about certain characters in his descriptions of them. I find that Gray doesn't describe his characters in the Star in as much depth as Dickens does in Hard Times.
Gray spends more time on the descriptions of the images that Cameron imagines when he looks into the star; such as the snow-flake. "He brought it close to his eye. In its depth was the pattern of a snowflake... He looked through the flake's crystal lattice into an ocean of glittering blue-black waves under a sky full of huge galaxies. " I preferred Hard Times to the Star because the characters are described in more detail whereas descriptions of the star seem to make up most of the story in the Star. I also find Hard Times easier to understand, probably because it is more blatant than the Star.