Hard Times

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Hard Times Book 2, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The young gentleman is none other than Mr. James Harthouse, usually called Jem, a young man who is affluent and bored out of his mind and hoping to find some distraction in working for Mr. Bounderby. It was James' brother who recommended that he go work for Bounderby, whom his brother refers to, along with Gradgrind, as the "Hard Fact fellows". Mr. Harthouse and Mr. Bounderby meet, and after Bounderby pompously greets him and Harthouse properly flatters and pleases Bounderby, Bounderby takes Harthouse home to be introduced to Louisa.
Harthouse is a very different character from the other men introduced so far. His description of Gradgrind and Bounderby as "Hard Fact Fellows" has a bit of mockery in it, suggesting that he himself is not such a "Fellow". Neither does he seem a limp loser like Tom. Instead, he possesses the disingenuous art of pleasing whomever he may like, and as such is bored with the world.
Themes
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Jem Harthouse finally snaps out of his boredom when he meets handsome, proud, cold Louisa. He senses that there is much more to this fascinating woman than meets the eye and tries to discover what, though she deftly evades every attempt of his to provoke a reaction from her.
But when his charm doesn't work on Louisa—who has been made so reserved by her education and the repression involved in her loveless marriage—she becomes an object of fascination to him.
Themes
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His efforts are finally rewarded when Tom comes home, and Louisa's impassive face breaks into a warm, beautiful smile. Harthouse inwardly takes note of this; apparently Tom is the only one she loves. Tom, for his part, behaves slovenly and disrespectfully at dinner, proving Mrs. Sparsit's and Bitzer's gossip right.
The only love Louisa expresses openly is towards her undeserving brother. That is the only love she has been permitted in her life of Facts. Tom, meanwhile, continues to be little more than dissolute.
Themes
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Unhappy Marriages Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon