Hard Times By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book One: Chapters 14-16

Summary

These three chapters, "The Great Manufacturer," "Father and Daughter," and "Husband and Wife," complete the sowing of seeds for the major characters.

The first, "The Great Manufacturer," is a time-span chapter. Several years have passed since the previous one; Tom has gone to work in Bounderby's bank; Louisa has become a woman; Sissy has been adjudged hopeless as to her progress in education, but accepted because of her kindness and goodness. In the concluding pages of the chapter, the seeds of marriage are sown. Here one sees, too, that young Tom's seeds of revenge are growing to maturity. Away from his father's house, he has learned and has come to like the ways of the world. He uses Louisa's love for him to encourage her to accept the proposal that he knows is forthcoming from Bounderby. The seeds of wonder are growing in Louisa, yet they have not been nourished enough to deter her from accepting only facts.

In the next chapter, "Father and Daughter," Mr. Gradgrind presents Bounderby's proposal of marriage to Louisa. When he does, Louisa asks him if he thinks that she loves Bounderby. His embarrassed answer is one that brings a second question to her lips: "What would you advise me to use in its stead?" (instead of love). His answer is in keeping with his philosophy: "to consider the question simply as one of tangible Fact." Louisa accepts the proposal by stating that there is no other answer for her; she has had no experience of the heart to guide her; she has never been allowed to wonder or to question. The only one who shows any emotional reaction to Gradgrind's announcement of his daughter's betrothal to Bounderby is Sissy, who regards Louisa with pity mingled with wonder and sorrow.

In the final chapter of Book One, Bounderby and Louisa are married. When Bounderby imparts to Mrs. Sparsit the news of his coming marriage, she wishes him happiness, but with condescension and compassion. She feels a pity for this aging man who is foolish enough to believe that a woman as young as Louisa can make him a satisfactory wife. When he announces to Mrs. Sparsit the forthcoming nuptials, Bounderby makes plans for her welfare. He offers her an apartment over the bank and her regular stipend for being a keeper of the bank. Mrs. Sparsit realizes that he is doing this only because of her former position with him. Being deposed from her position does not agree with the lady; nevertheless, she accepted the offer rather than eat the bread of dependency.

The courtship was not one of love but one of facts. Dresses were made, jewelry was ordered, all preparations went forward. A church wedding, naturally in the New Church, the only one of the eighteen that differed slightly in architecture, took place. Only once during the entire proceedings did Louisa lose her composure: that was upon parting from her brother, Tom, who was an inadequate support for the occasion. Her brother, whose whole concern in the matter was his own welfare, made light of her fears and sent her to the waiting Bounderby.

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