Summary and Analysis
Book Two: Chapter 9
"Hearing the Last of It" bears a dual meaning: the last of Louisa's determination to remain aloof from Harthouse and the last of Mrs. Sparsit's scheme to be again the respected housekeeper in the Bounderby house. This dual meaning is incomplete until the final chapter of this book.
In spite of her "bad nerves," Mrs. Sparsit reassumes all of her duties as housekeeper and hostess in Bounderby's house. Even though she refers to Louisa as Miss Gradgrind, Bounderby takes no offense. He is pathetic in his acceptance of the old regime — his tea poured, a ready ear, a smooth-running household, and an obvious, agreeable admirer of his talents as a "self-made man."
The reader realizes that Mrs. Sparsit is aware of the dangerous alienation of husband and wife. She kisses Bounderby's hand when she is in his presence but shakes her right-hand mitten at his picture in his absence and says, "Serve you right, you Noodle, and I am glad of it." Mrs. Sparsit's constant reference to Louisa as Miss Gradgrind lets the reader know also that no real marriage exists between the aging tyrant and the young woman just awakening to life.
Louisa is summoned home to see her gravely ill mother. Since her marriage, she has been home very few times. Now as she returns, she has no childhood memories to make her homecoming glad. Rather, she goes with a heavy, hardened kind of sorrow to find her mother rapidly sinking. In those last minutes of Mrs. Gradgrind's life, Louisa lets the reader know how much Sissy has influenced her and the youngest Gradgrind child, Jane.