Hard Times

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Hard Times Book 3, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Stephen still doesn't come. Sissy begins to visit Rachael in her home every day, trying to soothe Rachael's sadness about everyone turning against Stephen. They discuss what might have become of him, and Rachael reveals her fear that the real robber may have murdered Stephen, so as not to protect his own identity. Sissy tries to quiet her worries, and says they'll spend a week in the countryside to recover Rachael's strength and perhaps look for Stephen if he doesn't come by Saturday.
Sissy's kindness in visiting Rachael and Rachael's deep concern for Stephen mark these two women as the two most loving characters in the book. They are poor, but deeply feminine, and have the capability of redeeming what is bad in the industrial, fact-based world of Coketown.
Themes
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
Industrialism and Its Evils Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon
The two go for a walk around the town, and as they pass Mr. Bounderby's house, they see an excited Mrs. Sparsit pull up in a coach, accompanied by a distraught Mrs. Pegler. Mrs. Sparsit drags the woman out of the coach and into Bounderby's house, and triumphantly presents her to Bounderby (who happens to be meeting with Mr. Gradgrind and Tom), as one of the suspects connected with the robbery. Her actions draw a huge crowd to the house.
Mrs. Sparsit is consumed by a desire for revenge, to regain what she considers to be hers. She is the jealous woman exaggerated to an almost ridiculous degree. She just doesn't know when to stop, and continues to make a ridiculous spectacle out of herself in her effort to gain revenge.
Themes
Femininity Theme Icon
But Mrs. Sparsit and the gathered crowd are all excited when Mr. Bounderby reluctantly reveals that this lady is his own mother. Gradgrind then criticizes Mrs. Pegler for subjecting Bounderby to the terrible abandoned childhood he is always telling everyone about, but Mrs. Pegler further shocks everyone by saying the story isn't true at all: she and her husband cared for him in every possible way, and it was he who abandoned her (and paid her thirty pounds a year to stay away from him), not wishing to be connected with her once he had made his fortune. Revealed as a fraud and a liar to the Gradgrinds and to the entire town, and having been totally humiliated, Bounderby blusteringly orders everyone to get out of his house.
Mrs. Sparsit has sunk yet lower with this embarrassing mistake, but she is nowhere near as humiliated as Mr. Bounderby now is. Everything Bounderby boasted about himself his entire life has turned about to be a lie—he is not a self-made man, who lifted himself up from poverty to great wealth. The loss of his false origin story eliminates whatever moral authority he may have had, and he is revealed to be a man who used the advantages of his use to gain wealth and then systematically used that wealth to trample on others. This is criticism of the novel's representative successful industrialist, and thus a criticism of industrialism itself, which the novel suggests is hollow, built on both lies and the backs of the poor.
Themes
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
Industrialism and Its Evils Theme Icon
Femininity Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Louisa and Sissy both suspect in their hearts that Tom was the bank robber. He has become Mr. Bounderby's shadow, and doesn't visit Louisa. Louisa begins to worry that maybe Tom killed Stephen.
Dickens enjoys the drama of disappearing characters, as the mystery of Stephen's unknown whereabouts extends for yet another chapter.
Themes
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
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