Hard Times By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book Three: Chapters 8-9

Summary

Chapters 8 and 9 conclude the final book of the novel; entitled "Philosophical" and "Final," they complete Gradgrind's realization of the complete destruction of his system of education and serve as Dickens' prophecies of what is to come. When Bitzer stops Tom's escape, Gradgrind asks Bitzer if he has a heart. Bitzer replies, "The circulation, sir, couldn't be carried on without one. No man, sir, acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the blood can doubt that I have a heart." When Gradgrind, by asking him how much money he wants, tries to persuade Bitzer not to return Tom to Bounderby, Bitzer reveals that his sole purpose is to gain a promotion to Tom's former job. In the course of the conversation Bitzer says that "the whole social system is a question of self-interest." The reader learns here that Dickens believed the economic system of nineteenth-century England was based on self-interest. Though in front of Bitzer Mr. Sleary feigns indignation that Gradgrind wants him to help Tom — Gradgrind's thieving son — escape, he makes use of a dancing horse and a trained dog to harass Bitzer while Mr. Childers drives Tom to safety.

Sleary, telling Gradgrind that Signor Jupe's dog Merrylegs has returned to the circus, says that Jupe is surely dead. The circus people had agreed not to reveal Jupe's death to Sissy, his daughter. It seems a bit ironic that Sleary is the one to refute Bitzer's statement that the whole social system is based on self-interest, for the circus people and their understanding have shown that there is also love.

A sadder and wiser Gradgrind takes his leave of the circus people with Sleary's words ringing in his ears: "People mutht be amuthed. They can't be alwayth a-learning, nor yet they can't be alwayth a-working, they an't made for it. You mutht have uth, Thquire. Do the withe thing and the kind thing too, and make the betht of uth, not the wurtht!"

It seems significant, too, that the novel opens with the children in class and closes with them at a circus.

In "Final," the future is anticipated by Dickens. He foretells Mrs. Sparsit's lot with her complaining relative, Lady Scadgers, Mr. Bounderby's death in the streets of his smoke-filled town, Bitzer's rise in position, Sissy's happy marriage blessed with children, Gradgrind's being scorned by his former associates for his learning Hope, Faith, and Charity, and Tom's penitence and death thousands of miles away. Dickens also pictures Louisa — loved by Sissy's children and the children of others, but none of her own — seeking to understand and to help others. With hope for a brighter future for the children and the working classes of England, Dickens concludes his novel.

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