Hard Times Book III, Chapter 3: Summary and Analysis
by Charles Dickens

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Book III, Chapter 3: Summary and Analysis

Chapter 3: Very Decided

Mrs. Sparsit, ill from her late-night ordeal in the rain, pursues Bounderby to his hotel in London, tells him all she has seen and heard (and, no doubt, all that she imagines and fears), and faints dead away. After the usual restorative measures are applied, the two return by train to Coketown and proceed directly to Stone Lodge, where Bounderby bursts in upon Gradgrind demanding loudly to know where Louisa is. Told that she is right there in the house, Bounderby turns on Mrs. Sparsit and demands an apology for inventing stories. His housekeeper being incapable of speech, Bounderby escorts her out to the coach that conveyed them to Gradgrind’s and tells her to return forthwith to the bank.

Alone with Gradgrind, Bounderby declares himself distinctly dissatisfied with what he calls his “treatment” by Louisa. Gradgrind ventures to say that there are “qualities in Louisa which have been harshly neglected and a little perverted.” He goes on to recommend that Bounderby allow his wife to stay on at home, attended by Sissy. Bounderby, who swells and turns various shades of red as he listens to all this, launches into one of his familiar tirades. He is Josiah Bounderby of Coketown; he knows the town; knows its bricks, knows its works, knows its smoke, and knows its hands; they’re real; Gradgrind’s new talk of imaginative qualities is not; he knows what Gradgrind and his daughter really mean by it; they mean turtle soup and venison, and wanting to be set up in a coach and six. If that’s what Louisa wants, Bounderby concludes defiantly, she had better get it from her father, because she will never have it from him. He tells Gradgrind that if Louisa is not at home with him by
12 o’clock the next day, he will send over her things and consider himself rid of her.

Bounderby returns home and goes to bed. Five minutes after noon the next day, Louisa not having reappeared, he gives directions to have his wife’s clothing and other property returned to her, advertises his country retreat for sale, and resumes “a bachelor life.”

The resignation and sadness that Gradgrind now displays is offset by the unregenerate Bounderby in full cry. Bounderby’s extraordinary energy, as well as his grotesque coarseness and absurdity, reach a kind of hateful climax here. Down to the ritual invocation of the turtle soup and venison, Dickens has Bounderby...

(The entire section is 624 words.)