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THE STORY

BOOK THE SECOND

CHAPTER IX

As Mrs. Sparsit recuperates at the Bounderbys, she continues to prowl about the house, making sure that she goes unnoticed. She is particularly interested in the goings-on between Harthouse and Louisa, suspecting that their relationship is warming.

Bitzer arrives with news that Louisa's mother is dying and requests to see her. Louisa makes immediate preparations to go home, where she has gone rarely since her marriage. There is little for her there. Mrs. Gradgrind has been constantly ill, Louisa's sisters are not close to her, and she is still estranged from Sissy.

Louisa finds her mother cared for by Sissy (now an "equal" in the household) and Louisa's younger sister Jane. Louisa notices with some discomfort that Jane is closer to Sissy than to Louisa. Jane seems happier than she ever was, and Louisa wonders how much of that happiness is due to Sissy's influence.


Mrs. Gradgrind is barely conscious, but she rallies when she realizes that Louisa is there. The dying woman has a few last words for her daughter. Mrs. Gradgrind knows that something has been missing in her children's education. They have learned many "ologies," but one seems to have been forgotten. As the old woman gropes in vain for the missing "ology," she dies.

What is the "ology" Mrs. Gradgrind was trying to remember? Or was she simply rattling on in her dying state? Dickens offers no specific clue, but if you were asked what was missing from the Gradgrind children's education, what would you say? Love? Imagination? Sympathy? The answer is left for you to decide.  

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