Literature Study GuidesHard TimesBook 3 Chapter 1 Summary

Hard Times | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Hard Times | Book 3, Chapter 1 : Garnering (Another Thing Needful) | Summary

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Summary

Louisa wakes up in her old room in her father's house and sees her little sister, Jane. Louisa learns Sissy put her to bed the night before and brightened up the room. Louisa observes Jane seems very happy. Mr. Gradgrind comes to check on Louisa and wishes he had learned of her problems sooner. He assures her his intentions for her have always been good. He no longer trusts his ability to advise her and questions his long-term belief in the wisdom of the head over the wisdom of the heart. He now suspects both are important. He asks if she thinks Jane's education has been more balanced because he has so often been absent, serving in Parliament. Louisa says if this is so, it can only be good for Jane.

Sissy comes in after Mr. Gradgrind and offers to stay with Louisa. The two women recognize Louisa's demeanor toward Sissy cooled considerably after her engagement, but they affirm their mutual affection and reconcile. Louisa allows Sissy to comfort her.

Analysis

The chapter title, "Another Thing Needful," mirrors the title of the first chapter of Book 1, "A Thing Needful," in which Mr. Gradgrind emphasizes the importance of facts. In this first chapter of Book 3, he recognizes, finally, the importance of emotional understanding. He tells Louisa he wishes he had known about her plight earlier, but he has always dismissed any hints of emotional expression from Louisa. It is possible the dramatic event of her breakdown has been a thing needed to allow him to open his own mind to the possibility of recognizing emotion and imagination as important in human development. Only by seeing the damage he has caused his favorite child can he understand the stakes of her emotional development or lack thereof. He suspects his younger daughter, Jane, has therefore benefitted from his absence.

Louisa is ashamed of the coldness she has shown Sissy in recent years, and this feeling leads her to hide her face when she learns Sissy put her to bed and ministered to her, making sure her room was clean and pleasant. Sissy, in contrast to Louisa, is in touch with her emotions and holds no grudge against Louisa for her coldness. She readily provides the love and comfort Louisa needs because she can feel emotions in a way Louisa cannot.

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