Hard Times: Book 2 Chapter 11 - Summary & Analysis

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Lower and Lower


      Mr. Gradgrind receives a news of his wife’s death in London. He comes to Coketown and returns to London very soon after finishing the funeral ceremony. Mrs. Sparsit gets baffled by the reserved nature of Louisa. Sometimes it seems to her that Louisa is about to fall into the pit at the bottom of the staircase but sometimes she feels that Harthouse will not be able to win the heart of Louisa. Time passes like that. One day Bounderby has to leave his home for some business purpose and he has to go away from Louisa for three or four days. Mrs. Sparsit is used to coming on the weekends and Bounderby says her not to stop coming during his absence in the house. One weekend before visiting Bounderby’s house Mrs. Sparsit invites Tom to have some drink and food with her at the bank. From Tom she learns that Harthouse is out for Yorkshire, on a shooting expedition. Harthouse is coming back on the following day and Tom has to receive him in the evening at station.

      Next day, on Saturday Mrs. Sparsit goes to the station and stands at a point where she may remain unnoticed. She waits for Harthouse to arrive by the train. Tom is already present there waiting for Harthouse. But when the train arrives, Harthouse is seen nowhere. Mrs. Sparsit concludes that Harthouse has played a trick and he may be with Louisa at Bounderby’s residence. Immediately Mrs. Sparsit sets out for Bounderby’s house. On reaching there she sees Harthouse and Louisa very close to each other in the wood adjacent to the house. Mrs. Spar sit overhears that Harthouse is talking to Louisa in amorous tones. He is calling her “dearest love” and saying that he cannot live without her. She also overhears Louisa’s reaction that she has to leave from that particular spot and then Louisa walks away.

      After sometimes Mrs. Sparsit sees Louisa coming out of the house stealthily and hurriedly. She is muffled and cloaked. Mrs. Sparsit thinks that Louisa is going to elope with Harthouse. But Louisa goes to the station. Mrs. Sparsit thinks that Harthouse will ride on horseback to Coketown and there Louisa will join him and then they would go to some other place. Mrs. Sparsit follows Louisa, keeping herself out of Louisa’s eyes when train reaches Coketown. After reaching Coketown, Mrs. Sparsit expects Louisa to get into a carriage and thus she fails to follow her.

Critical Analysis

      The story is proceeding very rapidly. Suspense is the central attraction and plot becomes very interesting in this chapter. The development of the plot is very much dramatic. Harthouse’s ill feelings for Louisa have come out in a definite form. He is intended to seduce Louisa and to possess her as a mistress. He is taking the benefit of Bounderby’s friendship and his liberal nature. The unhealthy relationship between Louisa and her husband helps a lot to Harthouse in getting close to her.

      Mrs. Sparsit’s imagined staircase has outstripped the reality. Dickens gives a very comic picture of her extravagant conjectures through the image of a grand staircase down and Louisa’s descent towards the pit at the bottom. Her maddening chase of Louisa is also comic and so is her embarrassment at the end of the chapter when Louisa disappears and Mrs. Sparsit says in tears “I have lost her.”

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