Literature Study GuidesHard TimesBook 2 Chapter 12 Summary

Hard Times | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Hard Times | Book 2, Chapter 12 : Reaping (Down) | Summary

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Summary

Louisa does not meet James Harthouse after his declaration of love. Instead she goes to her father's house, deeply distressed. She tells her father, in Coketown for a vacation, she does not reproach him for her education yet regrets having been raised with no way of understanding or expressing her emotions. She confesses the circumstances that have brought her to her childhood home. She never loved her husband and has developed a relationship with a man she believes understands her. She told him she would meet him tonight simply to get him to leave her house, but instead she has come here. She does not know if she loves Harthouse or not, but she has not consummated the affair. She begs her father to help her, to save her, and collapses at his feet.

Analysis

Louisa's breakdown at her father's house represents a turning point for both her and Mr. Gradgrind. She understands her early education has not adequately prepared her for the world, and he begins to realize his attempts to educate his children in pure reason have damaged both of them. Louisa has entered into a loveless marriage that has left her emotionally numb in an attempt to mitigate the consequences of her brother's unsavory activities. She has come dangerously close to the shame of an extramarital affair.

Clearly Mr. Gradgrind must acknowledge he has failed both his children, though in profoundly different ways. Tom has gotten himself into trouble through active rebellion; Louisa has tried too hard to conform to expectations. When Louisa asks her father to save her, she does not yet know her father needs saving as well.

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