Hard Times


Charles Dickens

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Hard Times: Book 1, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Louisa and Sissy have grown into young women, and Tom is now a young man, apprenticed to Bounderby. Mr. Gradgrind's education of facts has not affected Sissy, who has acquired none of the knowledge he tried to force her to learn but is good, earnest, and affectionate as ever. She continues to live at Stone Lodge, where she takes care of Mrs. Gradgrind. Gradgrind himself has become a Member of Parliament, which is as mechanized and fact-oriented as the factory town he represents.
The novel makes clear that Sissy's early "education of fancy" is responsible for the good-hearted young woman she has grown into. Tom meanwhile, is either following or being pushed to follow in Bounderby's footsteps. By comparing the work of Parliament to the "fact-based" work done in Coketown, the novel indicates that Parliament's actions and laws do not take into account real people, real lives, or involve any humanity or compassion.
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Louisa, as melancholic and reserved as ever, seems to be the subject of both her father and her brother's musings, who are pondering something now that she is a young woman. Tom in particular hints at something that might soon fall in her path which could do him a good deal of good, playing on her affection for him (which, from the way he tries to manipulate her in their conversation, is considerably more genuine than his affection for her).
In contrast to Sissy, Louisa's fact-based education has made her sad and reserved—it seems to have made her distant from herself and from others, distant from feeling. It is also made clear, here, that Tom's character has not improved for the better with time, as he appears to be using Louisa's selfless affection for him to achieve some end of his.
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