Hard Times: Book 3 Chapter 8 - Summary & Analysis

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      Bitzer is determined to take Tom to the Coketown. Gradgrind requests him to let Tom go away but Bitzer remains unaffected. He proposes to hand over Tom to Bounderby who will promote him to the post held by Tom. When Gradgrind requests Bitzer that under his supervision he has got the education and he must, feel gratified for this reason, Bitzer says that he had been paying his fees for the education given to him. The fundamental principle of man is self-interest.

      On seeing the perturbed Gradgrind, Louisa and Sissy Mr. Sleary quickly plans a scheme to rescue Tom from the hold of Bitzer He pretends to take the side of Bitzer and says that he will send Tom and Bitzer to the railway station by his own carriage and Tom must be punished for what he has done. However; when Tom and Bitzer are on the journey through Mr. Sleary’s carriage, the trained circus horse starts dancing at the signal given by the carriage driver. Horse keeps on dancing without moving an inch ahead till Bitzer feels obliged to descend. The trained circus dog does not let Bitzer move a step in any direction. Tom takes the advantage of this opportunity and flees away Mr. Sleary tells all the story how he has managed to escape Tom and Gradgrind feels grateful to him. Gradgrind offers some money as a reward but Mr. Sleary only accepts five-pound notes for the carriage driver, a collar for the dog, a set of bells for the horse, water for himself and little refreshment for the whole circus group. Mr. Sleary tells in privacy to Gradgrind that Sissy’s father is no more. He had learned it when his dog Merrylegs one day had come to the circus in a very miserable condition. The dog had wagged his tail for some time as if looking for Sissy thereafter he dropped and died.

Critical Analysis

      Gradgrind’s condition becomes more tragic when even Bitzer; once his pupil, refuses to listen to his appeal. Bitzer argues that he should listen to the voice of reason and not to emotions. He says that he had paid for what he was taught. He says, “My schooling was paid for—it was a bargain and when I came away the bargain ended.” Dickens comments on this: “It was a fundamental principle of the Gradgrind philosophy that everything was to be paid for. Nobody was ever on any account to give anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase. Gratitude was to be abolished, and the virtues springing from it were not to be.” Gradgrind here is proved a great failure in regard of his philosophy when Bitzer comes out as entirely ungrateful to him.

      The scene of Tom’s rescue from the clutches of Bitzer through the help of Sleary is very amusing. Mr. Sleary instead of being helpful, is also devoid of any greed. He refuses to accept the financial offer of Gradgrind.

      Mr. Sleary’s account of the death of Sissy’s father is full of pathos. But he is quite sensible to not to give this information to Sissy who is still hopeful for her father’s return.

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