Hard Times: Book 1 Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

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Mr. Bounderby


      Mr. Bounderby is an intimate friend of Gradgrind. He is a rich merchant, manufacturer and banker. He is a self-made man who never gets exhausted by regarding himself a self-made. He is the “bully of humanity.”

      On his birthday, Mr. Bounderby is going to visit Stone Lodge. Talking to Mrs. Gradgrind, he tells her, he was born in a ditch, and his mother had abandoned him in his very infancy. He was left under the supervision of his grandmother who was a drunken woman. He continues to say that consequently he left his home and became a vagabond. He has reached to this present position after having worked as an errand boy, laborer, porter, clerk, chief manager, and small partner. Just then Gradgrind enters with children whom he had caught red-handed, peeping through the canvas wall of the circus. Mrs. Gradgrind scolds Louisa and Thomas for their misbehavior and asks them to go and be “somethingological.”

      Now Mr. Bounderby and Gradgrind start discussing the unexpected action of these two children. They think that it is imagination of the children that have arisen the vulgar curiosity to see the vagabonds in the circus. Gradgrind was always intended to develop reason in the mind of children and to erase their imaginative faculty. These men now trace the development of imagination in Louisa to her friendship with Sissy Jupe at school, because Sissy’s father is a circus performer, thus Sissy might have been excited Lousia’s curiosity to see circus. Thereafter they take the decision to expel Sissy Jupe from the school because she may be harmful to other children.

      Before leaving ‘Stone Lodge’, Bounderby kisses on Louisa’s cheek but she keeps on rubbing her cheek for several times as if to wipe out the kiss. The chapter largely deals with the past life of Bounderby. It throws a good light on the characteristics of Mrs. Bounderby.

Critical Analysis

      In this chapter, the history of Bounderby’s life is discussed elaborately. Bounderby feels proud to be self-made. He always talks about his humble origin and how has he reached to the present prosperous status. His mother had deserted him in infancy and he was left into the hands of drunkard grandmother.

      In this chapter the boastful manner of Bounderby, speaking about his early life produces plenty of humor. The character of Mrs. Gradgrind is depicted in a very humorous manner. She is described as “a little, thin, white, pink eyed, bundle of shawls of surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily”. She frequently takes medicine without any effect. She smiles weakly and looks very much feeble and dull. Mrs. Gradgrind’s use of typical word “somethingological” is very amusing. She. says her children to go and be “somethingological”.

      Louisa’s rubbing a cheek for long time in order to wipe out the kiss of Bounderby is also very amusing.

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