Hard Times Book II, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers

Charles Dickens

Book II, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Since when does Mrs. Sparsit complain of her nerves?

2. How does Harthouse describe Blackpool’s speech before Bounderby?

3. From the “House of Commons to the House of Corrections,” observes Mr. Harthouse, “there is a general profession of morality,” with, however, one exception. Which one is that?

4. The expression the “national cinder-heap” refers to what?

5. What rather odd piece of advice does Mrs. Sparsit give her employer?

6. In his study at Stone Lodge, Gradgrind is at work, “proving something.” What does Dickens suppose he is trying to prove?

7. When he hears a particularly loud clap of thunder from the storm that has been raging all night, Gradgrind glances toward where?

8. What significant gesture accompanies Louisa’s passionate speech to her father?

9. What does Louisa say it would have been better for her to be?

10. Why does Louisa say she was not “wholly indifferent” to the prospect of her marriage to Bounderby?

Answers
1. Mrs. Sparsit’s nerves have been in a delicate state ever since the robbery.

2. Mr. Harthouse contemptuously refers to Blackpool’s speech as “lengthy and prosy in the extreme…in the humble-virtue style of eloquence.”

3. Mr. Harthouse says that the one exception to the professions of morality coming from every side is to be found “among our people”; that is, the “hard fact men,” Utilitarians and political economists like her father and his ally Bounderby.

4. “The national-cinder heap” is what Dickens calls Parliament meeting in session, with its members looking for odds and ends in the dust and throwing quantities of that same dust in each other’s eyes.

5. Mrs. Sparsit urges Mr. Bounderby to “Be buoyant, Sir!”

6. Dickens has Mr. Gradgrind hard at work, proving that “the Good Samaritan was a Bad Economist.”

7. Gradgrind glances toward Coketown, thinking that its tall chimneys might be in danger from the lightning. (That there are living people abroad in the storm, among them his daughter, does not enter his thoughts.)

8. Louisa beats her breasts with both hands.

9. Louisa says it would have been better to have been born stone blind than raised as she has been by her father—at least then, forced to recognize the world’s shape through touch, her imagination would have had some practice.

10. Louisa says she had hoped by marrying Bounderby to be “pleasant and useful” to her brother, “the subject of all the little tenderness in my life.”