Hard Times

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Louisa, Mr. Gradgrind's eldest daughter, could be said to be the protagonist of the book. From a young age she resents the education of facts, which she finds thoroughly unenjoyable and which represses her imagination and emotions, deforming her heart. Led by her education, she marries a man she doesn't love, and then nearly runs away with another man, James Harthouse, who finally makes her feel as if she is understood. With the help of her gentle friend, Sissy, her heart and her humanity are gradually resuscitated.

Louisa Gradgrind Quotes in Hard Times

The Hard Times quotes below are all either spoken by Louisa Gradgrind or refer to Louisa Gradgrind. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Hard Times published in 2001.
Book 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly in the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its expression.

Related Characters: Louisa Gradgrind, Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Dickens describes two of the key characters of the novel, Gradgrind's children--Tom and Louisa. Both children are testaments to the tragic futility of Gradgrind's emphasis on facts. Try as he might, Gradgrind's attempts to make his children practical and efficient are failing: Tom and especially Louisa are intelligent and imaginative in a way that nobody can stamp out. Louisa in particular is a creative, imagination person--she sees the world in a fundamentally different way than Gradgrind does. Dickens conveys Louisa's creativity and adventurousness by comparing her to a fire with nothing to burn: in a harsh, efficient world, Louisa has no outlets for her energy or adventurousness. And while as children Tom and Louisa still have this "heart" and "fancy," as they grow up with their father's world of hard facts they find themselves emotionally warped and repressed.

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Book 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

‘You are quite another father to Louisa, sir.' Mrs Sparsit took a little more tea; and, as she bent her again contracted eyebrows over her steaming cup, rather looked as if her classical countenance were invoking the infernal gods.

Related Characters: Mrs. Sparsit (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind, Josiah Bounderby
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Josiah Bounderby is a powerful factory owner who lives with a widow named Mrs. Sparsit. Mrs. Sparsit and Bounderby discuss Gradgrind's decision to take in Sissy. At first, Mrs. Sparsit says that she dislikes the idea of Louisa, Gradgrind's daughter, associating with a "dirty," poor girl like Sissy. As the conversation goes on, though, Bounderby claims that he thinks of Louisa like another daughter--a statement that Sparsit claims to agree with, despite the fact that she clearly is jealous of Bounderby's interest in Louisa.

At this point in the novel, it's not clear that Mr. Bounderby is going to marry Louisa one day--and yet Dickens already gives us hints of their relationship. Sparsit seems jealous of Bounderby's closeness with Louisa, which is why, despite agreeing with him, she glares into her cup with the utmost severity. In all, Sparsit is presented as the rather flat, negative caricature of femininity--the spiteful, jilted lover who is jealous of other women and even demonic ("invoking the infernal gods") in her nature.

Book 1, Chapter 14 Quotes

‘Well, sister of mine,' said Tom, ‘when you say that, you are near my thoughts. We might be so much oftener together — mightn't we? Always together, almost — mightn't we? It would do me a great deal of good if you were to make up your mind to I know what, Loo. It would be a splendid thing for me. It would be uncommonly jolly!'

Related Characters: Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom) (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Years have now passed, and Tom and Louisa have grown into subdued, soulless people who don't know how to love or express emotion. Tom knows that Louisa loves him, however, if nobody else. In this passage. Tom is clearly trying to manipulate his sister into helping him out. We're not told exactly what Tom is asking his sister to do (marry Bounderby, as we'll later see), but the bigger point is that Tom is using his sister's affection for him as leverage. Tom, we can surmise, doesn't really love his sister that much--his childhood with Gradgrind has left him so emotionally impoverished that his only source of pleasure is controlling other people's feelings. He is, one could say, the Frankenstein's monster that Gradgrind's education program has created.

Book 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

‘Father,' said Louisa, ‘do you think I love Mr Bounderby?'

Mr. Gradgrind was extremely discomfited by this unexpected question. ‘Well, my child,' he returned, ‘I — really — cannot take upon myself to say.'

Related Characters: Thomas Gradgrind (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind (speaker), Josiah Bounderby
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, from the final pages of Book One, Louisa makes the crushing decision to marry Bounderby, a man she instinctively dislikes. Louisa goes to her father for help and advice, and finds that he's extremely unhelpful. Gradgrind has always trained Louisa to think of facts, not feelings. So when it comes time to decide whether or not to marry Bounderby, Louisa has no way of making a decision--there's simply no way that facts alone can decide a marriage. Gradgrind's weakness and incompetence is crystal-clear in this passage: he seems to acknowledge (albeit ten years too later) the hole in his education program. By focusing so exclusively on information, Gradgrind has impoverished his own soul, and left his two children lonely and repressed, without even a conception of what real love is (as this darkly humorous passage shows).

Book 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

‘Oh,' returned Tom, with contemptuous patronage, ‘she's a regular girl. A girl can get on anywhere. She has settled down to the life, and she don't mind. It does just as well as another. Besides, though Loo is a girl, she's not a common sort of girl. She can shut herself up within herself, and think — as I have often known her sit and watch the fire — for an hour at a stretch.'

Related Characters: Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom) (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind, James Harthouse
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tom has a drink with Jem Harthouse. Tom, intoxicated, opens up to Jem about his sister, Louisa. In the course of the conversation, he reveals that Louisa has only married Bounderby as a favor to him--she actually despises Bounderby. Tom seems utterly indifferent to Louisa's feelings; he's more concerned about his own success as an employee of the factory. Furthermore, he reveals his own sexist and dehumanizing beliefs here--because Louisa is a woman, he presumes, she can "get on anywhere." Her marital happiness is of no consequence to Tom.

The passage also reinforces a key fact about Louisa--in spite of her education at the hands of Gradgrind, and in spite of her sad, lonely life, she still has a spark left. Tom points out, for not the first time in the novel, that Louisa has a curious affinity with fire--perhaps symbolizing her imagination and adventurousness, which have been tragically suppressed by her marriage.

Book 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

‘Your brother. My young friend Tom — '

Her colour brightened, and she turned to him with a look of interest. ‘I never in my life,' he thought, ‘saw anything so remarkable and so captivating as the lighting of those features!'

Related Characters: James Harthouse (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind, Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom)
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Harthouse begins his seduction of Louisa. Harthouse pretends to run into Louisa by accident; then he proceeds to flatter her excessively. Because Louisa has never been treated with anything but callous efficiency, she's immediately interested in Harthouse; he represents an alternative to her usual way of life.

The passage also suggests that what really interests Louisa about Harthouse isn't exactly his flattery--rather, it's his association with Tom, Louisa's beloved brother. Louisa shows affection for Tom long after the point when it's obvious that Tom doesn't really love her. She has nobody else to love, and so she pours all of her emotion and affection into her lazy, undeserving brother. Harthouse realizes this, and so emphasizes his relationship to Tom in order to endear himself to Louisa.

Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

But from this day, the Sparsit action upon Mr Bounderby threw Louisa and James Harthouse more together, and strengthened the dangerous alienation from her husband and confidence against him with another, into which she had fallen by degrees so fine that she could not retrace them if she tried.

Related Characters: Louisa Gradgrind, Josiah Bounderby, Mrs. Sparsit, James Harthouse
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, a comical, tertiary character becomes villainous and critical to the plot of the novel. Mrs. Sparsit is jealous of the relationship between Louisa and Mr. Bounderby, and she resents the fact that she was kicked out of the house as soon as Bounderby married Louisa. To retaliate, Mrs. Sparsit tries to draw Louisa and Bounderby apart--thus, she tries to flatter Mr. Bounderby excessively, making him more conscious of Louisa's coldness. By the same token, Sparsit's flattery draws Louisa closer to James Harthouse.

The passage shows Mrs. Sparsit engaging in manipulation that's pretty obvious, at least from our perspective. Perhaps it's because Louisa is so unfamiliar with emotional matters that she can't see through what Mrs. Sparsit is trying to do, and thus falls for James.

Book 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

‘This night, my husband being away, he has been with me, declaring himself my lover. This minute he expects me, for I could release myself of his presence by no other means. I do not know that I am sorry, I do not know that I am ashamed, I do not know that I am degraded in my own esteem. All that I know is, your philosophy and your teaching will not save me. Now, father, you have brought me to this. Save me by some other means!'

Related Characters: Louisa Gradgrind (speaker), Thomas Gradgrind, Louisa Gradgrind, James Harthouse
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn the truth: after Mrs. Sparsit loses sight of Louisa, she doesn't go to meet with Harthouse in Coketown--instead, she goes to visit her father. Louisa pours out her heart to her father, accusing him of raising her to be emotionally clueless, so that she was naturally victim to smooth flatterers like James Harthouse. She demands that her father help her out of her current emotional problem--a problem for which facts and figures are absolutely beside the point.

In many ways, the entire novel has been building up to this scene. We've seen ample evidence of the limitations of Gradgrind's methods of education, but it's not until now that Louisa has shown real anger with her father for stunting her emotional development. Louisa, we always knew, still had some "fire" in her--here, she finally lets the fire out.

Book 3, Chapter 1 Quotes

In the innocence of her brave affection, and the brimming up of her old devoted spirit, the once deserted girl shone like a beautiful light upon the darkness of the other.

Related Characters: Louisa Gradgrind, Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Louisa reunites with her old friend, Sissy. Sissy knows that Louisa has been going through a great deal of hardship--previously, Louisa had abandoned Sissy for expressing her sadness with Louisa's decision to marry Bounderby. Here, though, all tension is forgotten as Sissy reaches out to Louisa, offering to teach her old friend about the Heart. Louisa has had many years to learn about the Head--but now, it's an emotional education that she desperately needs.

The passage is interesting because it uses light imagery to show the contrast between Louisa and Sissy. Although Louisa has been compared to a burning fire in the past, here it's Sissy, not Louisa, who's associated with light and virtue.

Book 3, Chapter 9 Quotes

A lonely brother, many thousands of miles away, writing, on paper blotted with tears, that her words had too soon come true, and that all the treasures in the world would be cheaply bartered for a sight of her dear face? At length this brother coming nearer home, with hope of seeing her, and being delayed by illness; and then a letter, in a strange hand, saying ‘he died in hospital, of fever, such a day, and died in penitence and love of you: his last word being your name'? Did Louisa see these things? Such things were to be.

Related Characters: Louisa Gradgrind, Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom)
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Thomas and Louisa go through a strange kind of reconciliation. Thomas has been separated from his sister for a long time. He tries to travel to see her, but dies of illness during the course of his trip. Thomas's last words are Louisa's name.

How should we take such an ending? Tom has always been a lazy, loutish character, making his sudden transformation into a loving sibling a tad surprising. And yet the ending is characteristic of Dickens: he sees the best in everybody. Tom has had a sad adulthood, but Dickens remembers a time when Tom was still innocent and sincere in his affections for his sister--as he dies, Tom seems to revert to such a childhood state. Dickens suggests that it's never to late to repent one's sins: so many of the characters in the novel undergo sudden, surprising changes of heart that leave them better, more loving human beings.

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Louisa Gradgrind Character Timeline in Hard Times

The timeline below shows where the character Louisa Gradgrind appears in Hard Times. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 3
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
...and at school. But he cannot believe his eyes when he sees his two children, Louisa Gradgrind and Tom Gradgrind, peeping into a circus tent. This circus, by the way, features... (full context)
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...facts and not on imagination and fun, he angrily pulls them away from the circus. Louisa, who is sixteen and a good deal older than Tom, speaks clearly in defense of... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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...manufacturer. He is a close family friend, and takes an interest in the children, particularly Louisa. (full context)
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Mr. Gradgrind returns with Louisa and Thomas, having dragged them from the circus, and indignantly exposes the misbehavior of his... (full context)
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...for Coketown to confront the Jupes. As they leave, Mr. Bounderby plants a kiss on Louisa's cheek, who is disgusted by this show of affection from him. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
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...and elderly widow named Mrs. Sparsit. As the two breakfast, Bounderby expresses his disapproval of Louisa associating with the likes of Sissy. Mrs. Sparsit, though she out loud agrees with Bounderby's... (full context)
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Mr. Gradgrind, Louisa, and Sissy enter the room. Upon questioning, Sissy lets slip that she and her father... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
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Tom and Louisa are at home, moodily discussing their unhappy existence and resenting their education of facts. Both... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
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...education of facts, Sissy hasn't made much "progress." One night she falls into conversation with Louisa, and bemoans how she can never answer Mr. McChoakumchild's questions the way he wants her... (full context)
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...who read her many wonderful fairy tales and made her very happy. She also tells Louisa how desperate her father was in his misery when he couldn't please the crowds, and... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 14
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Louisa and Sissy have grown into young women, and Tom is now a young man, apprenticed... (full context)
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Louisa, as melancholic and reserved as ever, seems to be the subject of both her father... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 15
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Mr. Gradgrind summons Louisa to his room, and informs her that Mr. Bounderby has asked for her hand in... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 16
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The day of the wedding comes, and Louisa and Mr. Bounderby are married. Tom thinks only of all the advantages he will gain... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
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...and his flattery, and upon questioning, disdainfully reveals that contrary to this young man's beliefs, Louisa Bounderby is not a grim old hag, but a young woman. Upon the young man's... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2
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...and Harthouse properly flatters and pleases Bounderby, Bounderby takes Harthouse home to be introduced to Louisa. (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
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...and a cigar, converses with him as a guise to extract information from him about Louisa. He learns that Louisa married Bounderby not out of love but for Tom's sake, to... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
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Stephen joins Mr. Bounderby, Louisa, Tom, and Mr. Harthouse in the Bounderbys' drawing room. Bounderby demands that Stephen reveal details... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
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...had a son who she lost, when suddenly there is a knock at the door. Louisa and Tom Gradgrind enter. From the look on his face, it is clear that Tom... (full context)
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...find work elsewhere. Stephen is confused, but says he will. Tom seems nervous and jumpy. Louisa and Tom then take their leave of Stephen, and Rachael does likewise. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
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...other "Hard Fact" fellows with his easy flattery, and begins to make headway in gaining Louisa's favor without her even realizing it. He "accidentally" comes across her while she is walking... (full context)
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...if only he'll act more affectionately toward his sister. Tom agrees. As Tom's behavior improves, Louisa smiles upon Mr. Harthouse, thinking gratefully of him as her brother's benefactor. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8
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The narrator reveals Mr. Harthouse's inner thoughts about this step in his relationship with Louisa; he isn't deliberately planning a wicked seduction, but he's bored by everything in his life... (full context)
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...if it had been all of his holdings. As they talk, the two men meet Louisa, Mrs. Sparsit, and Bitzer on the path. Harthouse and Louisa both instantly suspect Tom, though... (full context)
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...that her nerves have been shocked by this event, and moves temporarily back in with Louisa and Mr. Bounderby. She also takes to calling Louisa "Miss Gradgrind" instead of "Mrs. Bounderby".... (full context)
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...in her, he sulkily and resentfully maintains that he's not hiding anything. He hints that Louisa should mention neither the visit they paid Stephen, Rachael, and the old woman, nor the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 10
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...present, and excessive contempt to his portrait when he is gone. Watching the progression of Louisa and James Harthouse's relationship, Mrs. Sparsit rather evilly gets it into her mind that Louisa... (full context)
Industrialism and Its Evils Theme Icon
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...Mrs. Sparsit spies on through a window but can't overhear, Mr. Harthouse manages to persuade Louisa that Stephen, whom she thought to be a just man, may very well have succumbed... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 11
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...to meet Mr. Harthouse at the train station that night. She asks him to tell Louisa that she will not pay her usual visit to the Bounderbys that night, as she... (full context)
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Almost breathless with delight at the thought that this might be the night of Louisa's ruin, she creeps through the woods around the Bounderby house. Sure enough, she is rewarded... (full context)
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Mr. Harthouse leaves, and Louisa goes back to the house, only to set out again after a short time for... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 12
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Mrs. Sparsit was wrong: Louisa has not gone to Coketown to meet Mr. Harthouse, but rather to Stone Lodge to... (full context)
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Louisa then reveals to him that Mr. Harthouse has declared his love for her, and she... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 1
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Louisa awakes to find herself in her old bed in her old room, feeling very weak.... (full context)
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Mr. Gradgrind leaves her to rest, and Sissy comes in. Louisa immediately is filled with anger and resentment at the presence of this good and gentle... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
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James Harthouse doesn't know what to think of Louisa's failure to appear at their rendezvous in Coketown. He waits in Coketown for a while,... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
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After losing track of Louisa the night before, Mrs. Sparsit, filthy wet clothes and all, rushes to London, finds Mr.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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When Louisa does not appear at Bounderby's by noon the next day, Mr. Bounderby has his servants... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
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Louisa is at Stone Lodge with Sissy when Mr. Bounderby, Tom, and Rachael call on them.... (full context)
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...expresses sadness that an innocent man would be falsely charged with a crime, which causes Louisa and Sissy to share a glance: each of them believes Tom is actually the robber.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
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Meanwhile, Louisa and Sissy both suspect in their hearts that Tom was the bank robber. He has... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 6
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He then calls Louisa to his side, who has also come along with Tom, Gradgrind, and many others, and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 7
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...placed in positions of trust at least some of them will be dishonest. Then when Louisa tries to hug him, he spitefully blames her for the trouble he's in now—for leaving... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 8
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...and that he will let Bitzer use his carriage to take Tom back to Coketown. Louisa and Gradgrind are dismayed, but Sissy recognizes that Sleary, in fact, has a plan to... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 9
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...in the factory, taking care of Stephen's drunken wife when she comes back to town. Louisa grows gentler and humbler and finds joy in helping care for Sissy's children. Tom dies... (full context)