Hard Times: Book 2 Chapter 2 - Summary & Analysis

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Mr. James Harthouse


      The stranger, who has first visited Mrs. Sparsit’s home in order to inquire about Bounderby; is a young man named James Harthouse. This young gentleman, after getting bored with everything has now come to Coketown with an introduction letter from Gradgrind to meet Bounderby When Bounderby comes to know that a gentleman has come to the town in order to meet him, he himself goes to see that man. In his talk with gentleman, Bounderby tells him about the Coketown and its people. He says that town is full of smoke but it is like “meat and drink” to the people who are “healthiest thing in all respects, and particularly for the lungs.” Works that workers do is “the pleasantest, the lightest and the best paid” work. The workmen have only one object in life, that is to “feed on turtle soup and venison with a gold spoon” though it can never be achieved. Harthouse says that he has got a good account of the town through Bounderby Bounderby has deliberately informed his new friend that his origin is very humble, not high.

      Then Bounderby takes Harthouse to his home and introduces his wife to him. Louisa seems most remarkable girl to Harthouse that he has ever seen. He tries to become very friendly with Louisa. He says that he is bored with everything in his life. Now he has come to the conclusion that there is no need of acquiring any convictions or particular opinions. He tells Louisa that his motto is: “What will be, will be.”

      But throughout the conversation, Harthouse finds Louisa impassive. She is not relaxed or at calm. Her face remains all the time under stress. Harthouse wonders whether anything is able to manage the expression of this woman’s face. This moment Thomas counters and Louisa smiles with delight on seeing him. Now Harthouse understands that her brother is the only man whom she cares for. After realizing it Harthouse starts showing great interest in Thomas and he feels very much flattered.

Critical Analysis

      In this chapter, the focus is given to the new character, introduced in the previous chapter, Harthouse. He is portrayed in a very ironical and funny manner. “The vicious assumption of honesty in dishonesty—a vice so dangerous so deadly and so common—seemed a little to impress her (Louisa) in his favor.” Harthouse is fascinated by Louisa and thus he starts developing relationships with Tom to whom Louisa is quite affectionate and caring.

      Bounderby is not least suspicious about Harthouse’s ill intention about his wife, he encouraged him to come and converse with his life and pay so many compliments to her that come into his mind and he finds good to give. Bounderby’s disgust for the workers is shown into his conversation with Louisa.
Louisa’s response to Harthouse is worthy to mention: “She was so constrained, and yet so careless, so reserved, and yet so watchful, “so cold and proud, and yet so sensitively ashamed of her husband’s braggart humility Her features were handsome, but their natural play was so locked up that it seemed impossible to guess at their genuine expression.” Her features only get relaxed when Tom is in front of her.

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