Hard Times | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Hard Times | Book 3, Chapter 9 : Garnering (Final) | Summary

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Summary

Mrs. Sparsit and Mr. Bounderby quarrel because he resents her for exposing his mother, and she resents him for marrying Louisa. She tells him she has been calling his portrait a Noodle, and he suggests she return to Lady Scadgers. She agrees. After Mrs. Sparsit leaves him, Mr. Bounderby lives for five more years, long enough to promote Bitzer at the bank, and also long enough to become a mockery in Coketown before dying of a fit in the street.

Mr. Gradgrind modifies his philosophy, "making his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope, and Charity." He loses his seat in Parliament, and his political colleagues taunt and scorn him. The narrator calls these politicians "national dustmen" who have no real interest in the good of the People.

Rachael continues to work in the factory and is the only one of her compatriots to show mercy and compassion to a drunken beggar woman seen about town.

Tom comes to regret the way he has treated Louisa and writes her a letter. He attempts to move closer to England, hoping to see her but falls sick during the journey and dies alone.

Louisa does not remarry and has no children of her own. Sissy does marry and has children who love Louisa for telling them stories. Louisa rededicates her life to helping workers and others embrace their imaginations and shows them kindness as a "duty to be done."

Analysis

The final chapter serves as an epilogue revealing what happens to each of the main characters in the long run. Even though the events within the preceding chapters are filled with suffering and hardship for most of the characters, their lives over the next years indicate a sense of some larger justice being served, more or less. Mrs. Sparsit's malice and spying are rewarded with her spending the rest of her days quarreling with Lady Scadgers, who likely looks down on Mrs. Sparsit in the same way Mrs. Sparsit looks down on Louisa. Mr. Bounderby endures the embarrassment of the true story of his life coming out and dies suddenly in the street—which implies his anger actually kills him.

Mr. Gradgrind loses some of his status just as Mr. Bounderby does, but his dedication to higher ideals rather than mere facts implies the change in his outlook may bring him greater contentment and happiness.

Tom's fate may be the most appropriate, given the actions of his life. His escape from England implied he would never face justice for robbing the bank and framing Stephen Blackpool. Tom's reaction to his family's efforts to save him was more sullen resentment. His time abroad gives him perspective and a desire to reconcile with his sister. That he is ultimately unsuccessful in this attempt to reconcile shows how some mistakes can't be undone and drives home the importance of appreciating family while there is time to.

Louisa now finds some of the balance between reason and imagination missing from her early life, and she earns the love of Sissy's children. Sissy, a girl who lost her family at age seven, is rewarded for her goodness, courage, and perseverance with a family of her own.

Only Rachael reaps no specific punishment or reward for her actions. Her daily life remains roughly the same but without Stephen. Yet she does not allow his death to change or embitter her. She continues to do good and keeps his memory alive by showing compassion to his former wife because Coketown needs all the compassion it can get, goodness in the midst of general deprivation of the time.

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