Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

Hard Times book cover
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What is the conclusion of the novel Hard Times?

The conclusion of Hard Times tells the reader the fates of some of the major characters, including Mrs. Sparsit, Mr. Bounderby, Mr. Gradgrind, Tom, and Louisa. Of these, Louisa's is the last and happiest. Though she will not have her own children, she will love and be loved by Sissy's, improving their lives with the beauty and imagination so conspicuously absent from her own childhood.

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Hard Times is a favorite Charles Dickens book. It's also one of his shortest and least acclaimed. Those with an unfavorable opinion often say that Dickens's concern with making a statement about society overtook his concern with creating a compelling story.

Yet to understand the conclusion, we must try and get at Dickens's intent with the novel. What was Dickens trying to tell us about society and its preoccupation with empirical knowledge, or as Thomas Gradgrind says,

Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.

By the end of the novel, Gradgrind has reversed course. He believes in "Faith, Hope, and Charity." As for deceitful Josiah Bounderby, he dies. Does Louisa have children of her own? "Such a thing was never to be," Dickens tells us. However, she is loved by Sissy's...

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