Hard Times: Book 2 Chapter 1 - Summary & Analysis

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Effects on the Bank


      About a year after the marriage of Bounderby, one afternoon Mrs. Sparsit is sitting in her apartment where she has been living since Bounderby’s marriage. The porter; Bitzer; a former student of Gradgrind’s school, looks after her. He has served afternoon tea to Mrs. Sparsit and she starts chatting with him as usual. Bitzer, besides being a porter of the Bank, is also a spy and informer of Mr. Sparsit. Bitzer says to Mrs. Sparsit that workers of the factories are making a union in order to make themselves strong against the employers. “Uniting-leaguing and engaging to stand by one another.” Mrs. Sparsit says that employers should also get united in order to face the worker’s Union. Bitzer says that the employers have tried to do so but their efforts have achieved no success.

      During this conversation, Bitzer says that Thomas is greatly changed after joining Bounderby’s bank. Bitzer regards Thomas as an extravagant idler who thinks of himself as a privileged person because of being the brother of employer’s wife.

      Now a visitor comes to meet Mrs. Sparsit. He is entirely a stranger. Mrs. Sparsit finds no objection to receiving the visitor. The visitor says that he has a letter of introduction to meet Mr. Bounderby a banker; from his friend in London. The visitor asks where could he meet him. He has the letter from Mr. Gradgrind, M.P. who is in London at that time. In his conversation between Mrs. Sparsit and the strange visitor; he comes to know that Mr. Bounderby’s wife is too young, around twenty years of age. When he is told that he can meet Mr. Bounderby at his residence, he takes leave from Mrs. Sparsit and thanks her a lot for her courtesy shown to him. After his departure, Mrs. Sparsit asks Bitzer about his opinion regarding the strange visitor. Bitzer says that the man seems to spend much money on clothes and Mrs. Sparsit agrees with him. Thereafter; Bitzer says that this man is given to gambling Mrs. Sparsit tells that gambling is not good, it is immoral. Bitzer also leaves, and Mrs. Sparsit continues to sit near the window meditating upon the unknown visitor.

Critical Analysis

      In this chapter, a new character is introduced and his identity and purpose for coming to Coketown has remained a mystery. He seems to take lot of interest in Bounderby’s affairs, particularly in his wife. This arouses our curiosity as what is going to happen now.

      Another striking feature of the novel is the satirical treatment of Mrs. Sparsit, Bitzer, Coketown and its people. The novelist makes fun of Mrs. Sparsit’s boastfulness that her presence adds a feminine grace and aristocratic touch to Bounderby’s bank. She thinks of herself as a fairy the “bank fairy” though outside the bank people call her “the bank dragon” watching the treasure all the time. Mrs, Sparsit feels proud and she is easily flattered when any strange person tells her that she is the lady of “a very superior and agreeable appearance.”

      All the movements and activities of Bitzer are governed by the “calculations” and he has grown into an “extremely clear-headed cautious prudent young man.” His heart is completely emotionless. Mrs. Sparsit regards him to be a man of steadfast principle.

      Being an industrial town Coketown is picturized here as full of smoke and squalid. Dickens also ridicules the people of Coketown. He says, “There never was such fragile China-ware as that of which the millers of Coketown were made.”

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