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THE STORY

BOOK THE THIRD

CHAPTER II

Harthouse waits impatiently for Louisa, mystified that she hasn't appeared or sent word to him. Frustrated, he searches for her in vain. Harthouse returns to the hotel to continue his anxious waiting.

Word of Louisa soon comes, delivered by Sissy. She faces Harthouse without fear or agitation and tells him that Louisa will never see him again, as long as she lives. Harthouse is dumbstruck, not only by the news but by the purity of the soul that delivers it.

Harthouse admits that he does not want to become Louisa's "persecutor," and he is touched, Dickens tells us, "in the cavity where his heart should have been." With this phrase you'll understand the irony of Harthouse's name!


Sissy asks him to leave town as the only reparation he can make to Louisa. Harthouse protests that he has political business in Coketown that must be attended to, but Sissy is unmoved. His leaving is the only way to compensate for the damage he has done. Harthouse is powerless in the face of Sissy's powerful moral character. He asks her to keep this business a secret and agrees to leave town.

Do you find Harthouse's decision to leave town believable? Do you think he would give up Louisa without a fight? Some readers feel that he is too easily intimidated by Sissy, while others point to his history of easy boredom to suggest that he is not strongly committed to anything. Most readers agree, however, that for the purposes of the novel (particularly if you see it as an allegory) it is important for Harthouse to be confronted by Sissy, who represents the moral strength he lacks. The pang he feels in the place where his heart should be suggests that even Harthouse is moved by the wisdom of the heart that Sissy embodies.

Heading out of town on a railway carriage, Harthouse feels uncomfortable at having failed and looking ridiculous to other men of his type. What other moral men might feel- relief at having escaped before lives were seriously damaged- does not faze him at all.  

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