Hard Times–Book the Second: Reaping


In the first part of this novel by Charles Dickens, our narrator tells us about the Gradgrind family, Mr. Bounderby and all that he is connected to, and Stephen Blackpool and the rest of the hands (including Rachael). Now in this second part, Mr. Bounderby and Louisa are married, Tom is working for Mr. Bounderby, and Stephen is being rejected by his fellow men for not uniting against oppression. What I mainly want to look at is the end of this part–where we see the ‘Fact school’ crumble–there is something more. In the end of this book of the novel, the reader sees both parents of the Gradgrind family see the pitfalls of ‘Fact alone.’ First, right before her death, Mrs. Gradgrind tells Louisa of her sense that there is something that they have missed:

‘But there is something – not an Ology at all – that your father has missed, or forgotten, Louisa. I don’t know what it is. I have often sat with Sissy near me, and thought about it. I shall never get its name now. But your father may. It makes me restless. I want to write to him, to find out for God’s sake, what it is. Give me a pen, give me a pen. (p. 194)

What is it that Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind have missed? Well, considering the invocation of Sissy Jupe, and then also of God–we might postulate that the thing missed or forgotten is compassion. But for now, I have not finished the novel and will continue to read think about what this missed or forgotten thing is.

Mr. Gradgrind also realizes that Facts are not enough. However, his realization seems much more painful. He sees his daughter in pain over the fact that she must suffer being married with a man she hates, and that she must feel the guilt of loving another man (Mr. James Harthouse–introduced in book II of the novel)–(there is no infidelity). This book ends with a scene with Louisa and her father at the Gradgrind house:

‘This night, my husband being away, [James] has been with me, declaring himself my lover. This minute he expects me, for I could release myself of his presence by no other means. I do not know that I am sorry, I do not know that I am ashamed, I do not know that I am degraded in my own esteem. All that I know is, your philosophy and your teaching will not save me. Now, father, you have brought me to this. Save me by some other means!’

He tightened his hold in time to prevent her sinking on the floor, but she cried out in a terrible voice, ‘I shall die if you hold me! Let me fall upon the ground!’ And he laid her down there, and saw the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an insensible heap, at his feet. (pp. 211-212)

The marriage between Louisa and Mr. Bounderby was deeply affected by both Mr. Gradgrind and Louisa’s brother, Tom. Let us not forget that Louisa did make the decision to marry Mr. Bounderby. But in doing so, let us not also forget that Mr. Gradgrind’s education and upbringing for Louisa deeply influenced her decision; and Tom’s need to have work with Mr. Bounderby also influenced her decision. Let us neither forget the free will of Louisa, but also the effects that her father and brother’s actions have on her. Now, the girl raised on Facts alone, weeps on the floor seeking salvation in front of her father, confronted by his own pride.


Book 1: Sowing

Book 3: Garnering


One thought on “Hard Times–Book the Second: Reaping

  1. Pingback: Hard Times–Book the First: Sowing | Lankford Press

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