Literature Study GuidesHard TimesBook 1 Chapter 3 Summary

Hard Times | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Hard Times | Book 1, Chapter 3 : Sowing (A Loophole) | Summary

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Summary

As Mr. Gradgrind walks home from the school, he reflects on his role as a parent, feeling confident he is bringing up his children to be creatures of pure reason. As he passes the tent of the visiting circus, he sees the bill advertising Mr. Jupe and his performing dog, Merrylegs, among other acts. Dismissing the noise and festivity of the performance, he is then shocked and appalled to find two of his own children, Tom and Louisa, peeping into the tent to see the horse-riding act in progress. Mr. Gradgrind scolds them harshly, and Louisa confesses the peeking was her idea. Mr. Gradgrind refuses to hear any further explanations and escorts the children home.

Analysis

Mr. Gradgrind's strict adherence to fact and his desire to protect his children from exposure to any entertainment or other activity based on imagination appears overly harsh and indeed exaggerated. His children are not allowed to be children. At the same time, his objection to the circus at least makes some sense in comparison with the previous chapter's embargo on pictures of horses and decorative flowers in the wrong places. It is possible that exposure to the circus might prove too distracting to the children, but this interpretation of Mr. Gradgrind's objections may be generous. He objects to entertainment, period, for it costs and has no practical application.

In addition, when Louisa says she is tired of everything, her father dismisses the comment as childish, particularly because she cannot explain what exactly she is tired of. The implication, of course, is she is tired of the rigid, one-dimensional education she has been receiving and the amusement-free life she has been living, but these subjects are not to be discussed. Rather she is shamed into silence, and readers may infer such repressed emotion will eventually cause problems more serious than a thwarted peek into a circus tent.

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