Hard Times: Book 3 Chapter 7 - Summary & Analysis

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Summary

      On his deathbed, Stephen told Gradgrind that he should interrogate his son Tom for bank robbery Sissy promptly goes to Tom and whispered something into his ears. After a short discussion, Tom moves away from the scene and disappears. Next day Gradgrind goes to bank in order to meet Tom and questions him regarding the bank robbery but he finds Tom nowhere. Gradgrind comes back to home and locks himself into his room. He eats nothing whole day and keeps on walking here and there in the state of mental conflict. He even does not talk to Louisa. Next morning Gradgrind appears at breakfast, Louisa tries to soothe him but his agony was intense. This thought is too distressing for him that his son has committed a bank robbery and another man has been suspected on his place. Gradgrind is also desperately concerned with rescuing Tom from the legal consequences of the crime, robbery He is ready to spend a large amount of money in order to save Tom from being arrested. Louisa then tells her father that Sissy had warned Tom about the probability of being arrested and Tom had quit the place to rescue himself. Gradgrind feels grateful to Sissy for all her services rendered to his family Sissy says that she had told Tom to meet Mr. Sleary the owner of the circus and mention her name to him. She is sure that after listening to her name Mr. Sleary would provide him shelter.

      Now Gradgrind decides after consulting with Louisa and Sissy that Tom should be shifted to some foreign place. They will ship him from the port of Liverpool that is very close to Mr. Sleary’s present headquarter for his circus. To pursue the plan, all of the three set out to meet Tom at Sleary’s headquarters. Louisa and Sissy go in a different direction so that they should not be suspected of traveling together outside the Coke town.

      Meantime, Sleary’s circus has shifted to another town twenty miles away All the three have continued their journey till they meet their destination. Mr. Sleary receives Sissy with greater affection and tells her about the or circus how it is going on.

      Sissy was right in her anticipation that Mr. Sleary would have given shelter to Tom. Tom has been disguised there as a member of circus troupe: that moment he is playing the role of a black servant in one of the circus performances. Gradgrind feels badly disappointed to notice one of his model children making a ridiculous figure in the comic livery of circus.

      On Gradgrind’s question how and why Tom had committed robbery, Tom replies that few men, whom others trust, are bound to be dishonest he is one among them. He had made a duplicate key of the locker where money was kept and had dropped that key in the morning when the robbery was disclosed so that it is proved that key had been used for the robbery He also said that he had not stolen all the money at once but small sums from time to time. Gradgrind is shocked at his son impudence but he has to take prompt steps to shift Tom to some foreign country. Tom is also feeling much eagerness to be sent abroad because he does not like to be more in the circus. Gradgrind gives him a letter addressed to his friend in Liverpool and tells him to leave for Liverpool immediately without any loss of time. Then boards a ship going to some foreign land.

      As Tom is about to depart, Bitzer appears breathlessly as if he was running with his fastest possible speed. He says that he had suspected Tom as a robber very long. Now he has collected enough evidences against Tom and without any waste of time he catches hold of him. He holds Tom by the collar.

Critical Analysis

      Sissy’s character is presented in its more goodness. She suggests Tom to leave rightly in time: Tom would have been arrested if does not slip away from the scene.

      Gradgrind is both presented as a good and bad character. As we know, he has failed in his education policy again but more badly he is proved a failure in this chapter. When Tom defends himself from the charge of robbery by saying that he is only one of a group of people who are bound to prove dishonest, he is only making use of what he has learned from Gradgrind. He says: “I have heard you talk a hundred times, of its being a law. How can I help laws? You have comforted others with such things, father. Comfort yourself’. Louisa’s predicaments after getting married have already made Gradgrind repentant and now a severe blow is given to him through Tom.

      Gradgrind’s pathetic condition of receiving two severe blows make us to feel sympathy. We feel sympathetic because first, he has realized that his education policy is full of faults, second, he appreciates Sissy for her faithfulness to his family and of course for his paternal concern towards Tom.

      Tom remains a contemptible fellow as he was. He does not feel any gratitude to Louisa, he accuses her of betraying his trust by telling everything about her visit to Stephen’s residence with him. Louisa, feeling greatly troubled, says into tears that she still loves him and one day he will feel sorry for ill-treating her.

      Characters from circus are portrayed in a very favorable light. Mr. Sleary’s heart is full of goodness, he is truly a human being. He gives all possible help to Tom on account of Sissy Everyone receives Sissy very affectionately Of course these people represent the fundamental human values.

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