Hard Times

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Hard Times Book 2, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mrs. Sparsit stretches the few days she was supposed to spend in Bounderby's house quite a while longer, and continues to lavish so much attention on Mr. Bounderby in his pitiable state of being robbed of 150 pounds that he notices, in contrast, how cold Louisa is to him (which is no change from her previous behavior). Mrs. Sparsit does whatever she can to further this sense of alienation between Mr. Bounderby and Louisa, while Louisa and Mr. Harthouse silently draw closer together in their contempt of Bounderby. Mrs. Sparsit's flattery of Mr. Bounderby ends, however, as soon as he's out of sight, and she makes contemptuous comments about him to his portrait.
Mrs. Sparsit is a comical character in physical features and in personality, but it is no laughing matter how she tries to drive Mr. Bounderby and Louisa apart. She is a duplicitous character, who is showing so much affection to Bounderby to distance him from Louisa. At the same time, her nasty comments about Bounderby once he is gone shows that Sparsit hates him too—she seems to want not Bounderby himself but the comforts of his wealth and home.
Themes
Unhappy Marriages Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon
Shortly after Mr. Bounderby leaves for work, Bitzer brings Louisa a note telling her that her mother is dying. Louisa immediately departs for her old home. Stone Lodge holds no happy memories for her, and when she arrives she finds that her mother and her younger sister, Jane, rely very much on kind Sissy. She notices with resentment that Jane is a happier, more sympathetic girl than Louisa ever was thanks to Sissy's influence in the Gradgrind household.
Just as Tom resents the goodness his older sister shows him, Louisa resents (though to a lesser extent) the kindness that Sissy has showed her and her family. Louisa resents the goodness that Sissy has brought to her old home, having never possessed or experienced enough of it herself.
Themes
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon
As Mrs. Gradgrind lies dying, she feebly attempts to tell Louisa that she has realized that she and Mr. Gradgrind forgot something in the education of their children. She takes a pen to try and write it down, but her movements become weaker and weaker and she dies without communicating to Louisa or her husband what it is.
It is the wife—the woman—and not the husband who first realizes that the education of facts did not supply her children with everything they needed in life. In Dickens' typically dramatic way, Mrs. Gradgrind dies before being able to articulate what it was missing.
Themes
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon