Summary and Analysis
Aptly named "Gunpowder," this chapter shows that three characters — Louisa, Tom, and Jem Harthouse-are figuratively sitting on kegs of explosives.
Harthouse, having performed his duties well, has gained the confidence of both Gradgrind and Bounderby. They are unaware of his objective: to make Louisa love him. His pursuit of Louisa is amusing to him, and he becomes a frequent caller at the Bounderby house. The reader learns that Bounderby, having foreclosed a mortgage on Nickits, who speculated too much, has moved his family into a country estate some fifteen miles from Coketown and accessible by railway. In the flower garden, Bounderby has planted cabbages; in the house filled with elegant furnishings and beautiful paintings, Boundery has continued his barrack-like existence.
The day of Harthouse's triumph arrives at Bounderby's country home, when he broaches to Louisa the subject of Tom's gambling by saying he is interested in Tom's well-being. He convinces Louisa of his deep interest in Tom. While they are walking back to the house, they encounter Tom carving a girl's name in a tree. Tom, in a bad mood, is barely civil to his sister, who has refused him a hundred pounds. When Louisa goes into the house, Harthouse remains in the garden with Tom. Persuaded by Harthouse, Tom discusses his troubles with him. When Harthouse asks Tom how much money he needs, Tom replies by saying it is too late for money. Harthouse persuades Tom to apologize to Louisa for his rudeness. When Tom does apologize, Louisa believes that the change in him is due to Harthouse's influence; her smile is for Harthouse now.