Full Summary of The Novel Hard Times

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Gradgrind’s Principle of Education

      Thomas Gradgrind is the owner of an experimental private school in Coketown. He insists on teaching ‘Facts’ only. He feels that fancy and imagination are worthless, they have no place in the world and fact is everything. His own children are models of this principle of education—‘facts’. These children are never allowed to learn anything related to humanities, they are ignorant of literature, to sentiments of heart or graces of the soul. Even they are not allowed to learn nursery-rhymes and fairy-tales.

Peering through the Canvas Wall of a Circus Tent

      One day, as Gradgrind is coming back to his home from the school, he is greatly hurt and displeased to see his children Louisa and Tom trying to peer through the canvas wall of a circus tent. He finds it shocking and painful that his children are not sorry for going against the principles which is taught to them and under which they have been brought up. Thereafter, Gradgrind and his industrialist friend Mr. Josiah Bounderby start discussing what has made the children to betray the principle of facts. They conclude that Louisa’s schoolmate Sissy Jupe whose father is a stroller in the circus might have influenced the children and allured them to see circus.

Gradgrind’s Milk-Heartedness

      Now it is decided to dismiss Sissy Jupe from the school under the precaution that other students may not be affected. Gradgrind and Bounderby set out to meet Sissy’s father. When they reach where Sissy’s father stays they find the stroller missing and later have learned that he has deserted his daughter and gone away. Gradgrind’s heart is moved to see Sissy’s poor condition and he decides to keep the girl under his protection and educate her. He puts condition that no one from the circus troupe will try to meet Sissy. Bounderby does not consent because he thinks that Sissy would lay adverse effect upon Gradgrind’s children.

Bounderby’s Marriage

      Time passes and Louisa and Tom grow up. Bounderby puts a proposal to marry Louisa. Louisa agrees to marry him in front of her father because she does not want to disappoint him though she has never liked Bounderby Tom feels happy to find to his sister ready to marry his employer. He is employed in Bounderby’s bank. Thus Louisa agrees to marry Bounderby because of the happiness of his brother and father.


Appearance of Harthouse

      Bounderby is very happy to marry Louisa. After his marriage, he shifts his elderly housekeeper, Mrs. Sparsit to the apartments of bank building. Mrs. Sparsit does not like Louisa and always keep an eye on her. After their marriage, everything is going on peacefully at Gradgrind’s and Bounderby’s home.

      Meantime, Gradgrind has been elected as M.P. from his Coketown. A man Harthouse comes to meet Bounderby with the letter of introduction by Gradgrind. Harthouse thinks Bounderby a fool but Louisa, seems to him a remarkable lady. He feels that Louisa is not happy and in perpetual distress. Only her brother Tom is close to her, to whom she gives her precious smile.

Harthouse’s Evil Designs

      One day when Harthouse comes to visit Bounderby’s residence he meets Tom there. Harthouse starts flattering him and Tom feels much proud of being important. Harthouse takes the advantage of Tom’s love for drinking and extracts from him more information about Louisa’s life. When he learns that she has been subjected to an inhuman education, Harthouse thinks that Louisa can not be easily seduced because of her marriage without love. But first, he has to win her favor. No one is realizing it that angry and jealous Mrs. Sparsit is spying on them constantly. Harthouse, once seeks Louisa’s permission to talk to her something personal. He says that Tom is extremely ungrateful in spite of her endless affection and favors to him. Later on, in the evening when Louisa finds her brother too caring and loving, she has easily understood Harthouse’s mind behind. She gives a smile to Harthouse and he reflects that his trick has worked.

Bounderby’s Bank is Robbed

      One day when Harthouse is going back to his room, he meets Bounderby greatly troubled. He informs him in shocking tone, that his bank is robbed. Everyone suspect Stephen Blackpool, the culprit, who has been ill-treated by Bounderby. Stephen Blackpool, who has been seen outside the bank after his duty for two or three days, is disappeared on the night of robbery Suspicion also falls on an old woman seen in Stephen’s company The curious search for Stephen Blackpool and the old lady Mrs. Pegler meet no success. Bounderby is now waiting for the culprit to turn up anytime.


Louisa reaches Gradgrind’s House (Stone Lodge)

      Louisa and Harthouse have reached very close to each other they are often seen as talking in whispers on lonely places. Harthouse decides to elope with Louisa. A plan is made to meet in Coketown and then depart to some unknown place. But Louisa’s conscience leads her to Gradgrind’s house instead of running away with her lover. She tells her father that his principle of education under which she is brought up has made her life chaotic. She has married for the happiness of her father and brother though she has always been contemptuous to Bounderby Now she has gone very close to Harthouse, her lover who wants her to rush away with him. She is confused. After that Louisa faints. Meantime Mrs. Sparsit, after hearing the secret conversation between Harthouse and Louisa, thinks that now they will flee away She tells everything to Bounderby and thus situation gets more complicated. Bounderby immediately rushes to Gradgrind’s house and insists Louisa to return to his home. Gradgrind suggests that Louisa should be allowed to say with him until she recovers her nerves but Bounderby leaves the sight stating that she has to return before noon, on the following day Harthouse being disappointed and everything made clear by Sissy disappears after writing three notes—to his brother, Gradgrind and Bounderby

Tom is Rescued and Stephen’s Death

      Mrs. Sparsit is trying to win the favor of Bounderby in Louisa’s absence. She forcibly drags Mrs. Pegler to Bounderby because she is suspected to assist Stephen in the bank robbery But Mrs. Pegler turns out to be Bounderby’s mother. Bounderby bursts into fury because his mother has made his designed story false that she had left him in the hands of his drunken grandmother in his very infancy and through the power and courage he has become a prosperous mail.

      Meanwhile, Louisa and Sissy Jupe have accidentally found Stephen Blackpool into a chasm who might have fallen into it while coming back to Coketown in response to Rachel’s letter to clear himself from all the charges. After his rescue but on the edge of dying he says to Gradgrind that he (Stephen) is innocent and he (Gradgrind) should interrogate his own son about the robbery After that Tom disappears. With the help of Sissy Louisa and Gradgrind reaches to Sleary where Tom is staying as directed by Sissy Gradgrind has decided to shift Tom to some foreign place in order to defend him from any adverse consequences of law

The Last Scene

      Before Tom can leave, he is caught by Bitzer with all the evidences to present him as a culprit. Mr. Sleary’s mind works at this moment quickly and by his assistance, Tom is rescued. Mrs. Sparsit is dismissed by Bounderby because he is badly disgraced by her act of carrying Mrs. Pegler in front of everybody Bounderby dies after few years. Gradgrind becomes wiser after realizing the demerits of his principle of education. Sissy gets married and starts living happily with her children. She is the great source of comfort and delight to Louisa whose own married life has proved a failure.

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