Book 2, Chapter 8 Summary

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Last Updated January 12, 2023.

The next morning, Mr. Harthouse thinks about how much he has accomplished with Louisa so far. He has won her confidence and excluded her husband. Her barriers are beginning to come down. Yet Mr. Harthouse still cannot be overly enthusiastic in his wickedness. He is not the “roaring lion” kind of devil but the “trimmed, smoothed, and varnished” variety.

As Mr. Harthouse leaves the house, he meets Mr. Bounderby, who is in a great state of excitement. The bank has been robbed. The burglar had a false key and took 150 pounds or so. Mr. Bounderby insists that the loss might have been much greater and that the robber must have been disturbed. He also says that Louisa fainted when she heard the news.

Louisa, Mrs. Sparsit, and Bitzer arrive then, and they all discuss the situation, including Bitzer’s lack of watchfulness and his discovery of the crime. The money has been taken from Tom’s safe. Tom himself is helping the police at the bank.

Mr. Bounderby is certain that he knows who the culprit is: Stephen Blackpool. After all, he maintains, a dissatisfied Hand is “fit for anything bad.” Mr. Bounderby recalls his meetings with Stephen, turning them to fit his own interpretation of subsequent events. He is also suspicious of the mysterious old woman who has been seen in town.

Mrs. Sparsit, whose nerves have been badly shaken by the robbery, will stay at the country estate for a time until she recovers. She quickly falls into the role of a selfish, deprecating “unselfishness” that becomes a nuisance to all, and she maintains “her determination to pity Mr. Bounderby” in his married life. She consistently calls Louisa “Miss Gradgrind,” remarks on her lack of care for her husband, and steps into the place of caregiver, doing all kinds of little things for Mr. Bounderby that Louisa fails in.

After the house settles down for the evening, Louisa goes into Tom’s room. She asks her brother if he has anything to tell her. He denies it. She begs him to tell her the truth. He says that he does not know what she means and that she should go back to bed. Louisa gets nothing else out of him, and he pretends to sleep. When she leaves the room, he locks the door and throws himself down in a temper tantrum of crying and tearing his hair.

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