Hard Times

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Hard Times Book 3, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After losing track of Louisa the night before, Mrs. Sparsit, filthy wet clothes and all, rushes to London, finds Mr. Bounderby, and tells him what she saw and what she concluded. Bounderby rather rudely throws her into a carriage in which they rush to Stone Lodge. There, he confronts Mr. Gradgrind, yelling about Louisa's affair with Harthouse. When Gradgrind reveals that Louisa came to him rather than going to meet Harthouse, Bounderby is embarrassed, tells Mrs. Sparsit off for exaggerating, and shouts that she must leave right away, which she does.
Mrs. Sparsit's pettiness in essentially tattle-taling on a rival of hers combined with her ridiculous appearance make her seem as awful and near demonic as Stephen's wife. That Sparsit's efforts rebound against her, since her accusations are untrue, seems like a kind of karmic justice. Bounderby, meanwhile, looks more and more like he is all empty idiotic bluster.
Themes
Unhappy Marriages Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon
Losing none of his bluster, Bounderby then demands of Mr. Gradgrind an explanation for his daughter's behavior. As Mr. Gradgrind hesitatingly tries to explain that her education based solely on facts was responsible and that "there are qualities in Louisa which—which have been harshly neglected", and Louisa needs time to rest and recover, and that Louisa's and his marriage is lacking in love. Mr. Bounderby swells in indignation, responding that what is lacking is Louisa's proper respect for him. He makes several very rude comments about Mr. Gradgrind and Louisa, and finishes by saying that if he doesn't see Louisa back in his own house by noon the next day, Mr. Gradgrind is then responsible for Louisa, not he. Mr. Bounderby departs.
The most ironic part of this scene is that Bounderby refuses to listen the very words from Gradgrind that he himself told Stephen when he asked his master how he could escape his unhappy marriage. Bounderby doesn't intend on staying in this marriage if it means he needs to take care of Louisa. In contrast, Mr. Gradgrind has been softened and saddened by his daughter's fate, and even in his newfound hesitance and uncertainty has come to seem a more caring and even wiser man.
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Unhappy Marriages Theme Icon
When Louisa does not appear at Bounderby's by noon the next day, Mr. Bounderby has his servants send back all her belongings to Stone Lodge and resumes living as if he were unmarried.
After all he said to Stephen about having to stay with his spouse no matter what, Bounderby is a total hypocrite.
Themes
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
Industrialism and Its Evils Theme Icon
Unhappy Marriages Theme Icon