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THE STORY

BOOK THE FIRST

CHAPTER XVI

Bounderby is nervous about breaking the news of the upcoming wedding to Mrs. Sparsit. He fully expects hysteria from her when she learns she will be replaced in the household. But Mrs. Sparsit reacts with a mixture of condescension and sympathy. She turns down his offer to stay as part of the household, but accepts an apartment in his bank and a similar stipend to what she has been receiving.

Bounderby is frustrated at her calm. Her tone suggests that she predicts only misery for the couple, and he feels very much the victim.

The wedding takes place after a period of loveless "courtship." Bounderby's speech at the wedding breakfast is a masterpiece of self-praise and practicality.

As Louisa is ready to leave on her honeymoon, Tom takes her aside to praise her for being such a good sport about marrying Bounderby. For the first time, Louisa begins to show emotion underneath her facade, but Tom doesn't notice. He's just pleased with the thought of how much more pleasant life will be in the future.


NOTE: This chapter marks the end of the first book, entitled "Sowing." To sow is to plant seeds, and Dickens uses farming terms in the titles of all three books. "Sowing" suggests the seeds planted by Gradgrind in the raising of his children. Both Tom and Louisa have been raised according to strict principles. But what will become of the harvest when the seeds are fully grown? Will Gradgrind be pleased with his "crop"? Or will the harvest be a bitter one? And what will become of Stephen Blackpool? The title of the second book, "Reaping," tells us that we will soon know.

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