Hard Times

Hard Times


Charles Dickens

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Hard Times: Book 3, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Back at Mr. Bounderby's home, things have come to a head between him and Mrs. Sparsit. Over lunch, they insult each other while managing to remain "dignified," but grow increasingly enraged until Mr. Bounderby orders Mrs. Sparsit to leave his house forever. She does so, with great pleasure, and informs him of the great contempt for him that she has in fact always had.
Watching these two egos pit themselves against each other in their final scene together is both amusing and appalling. Though Bounderby represents the worst of the industrial world and Mrs. Sparsit represents the worst of femininity, Dickens cannot help making them funny characters to the last. Though it is worth noting that both are rapacious, caring not about each other but about what they can get from each other.
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Mrs. Sparsit spends the rest of her days taking care of a miserly old lady. Mr. Bounderby continues being the arrogant, blustery humbug he always was. Mr. Gradgrind remedies his ways and changes his philosophy of life and education so that facts make way for faith, hope and charity. Rachael spends the rest of her days serenely but sadly working 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 far from home, having written of his repentance to his sister, but dying during a final attempted journey to visit her. His sister's name is on his lips as he dies.
In the end, almost everyone has received what they deserved (even Stephen achieved a kind of peace in death). And yet, this is not your typical happy ending; there is a shadow of sadness over the lives of all the characters that will not go away because of the undoable harm done to Louisa and Tom by the education of facts, and to Stephen by the evils and corrupting force of industrialization.
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