Mrs Sparsit’s efforts to continually win back her role as a housekeeper draws Louisa to Harthouse, much to Mrs Sparsit’s delight as it causes the hostility between Bounderby and Louisa to grow. Dickens ironically, chooses for Mrs Sparsit to begin to imagine Louisa down a staircase which has a “dark pit of shame and ruin at the bottom”. There is irony in the fact that the Utilitarian philosophy that Bounderby is a great believer of wouldn’t approve of such fanciful images.
It is another chance for Dickens to satirise the philosophy and to express the importance of fancy and how it can never be escaped. Through this idea Dickens is able to create suspense as he reinforces Louisa descending down the staircase because the reader is interested to see what will come of Louisa and Harthouse’s relationship especially as the following chapters are called “Lower and Lower”, and “Down”. Throughout these chapters Dickens makes clear the true extent of Mrs Sparsit’s obsession as: “If she [Louisa] had once turned back, it might have been the death of Mrs Sparsit”.
Mrs Sparsit’s staircase is necessary for Dickens to compress the meetings between Harthouse and Louisa because by simply stating that Louisa is rapidly descending the staircase is enough information for the reader without having to include their conversations. One could argue that this is one of Mrs Sparsit’s functions in the novel. Mrs Sparsit’s fascination with Louisa on the “brink of the abyss” reaches new heights in “Lower and Lower” as she tries to play detective in the Harthouse-Louisa mystery.
This chapter is very comic as well as melodramatic. Again her caricature dimension is reinforced when she accepts Mr Bounderby’s invitation to his house with, “your will is to me a law”, and stating her pity for him and urging him to “be buoyant”. Dickens describes her as “pouncing”, “darting” and “diving” when chasing Louisa and he engages the reader in Mrs Sparsit’s thoughts of urgency as she asks herself, “Where will she wait for him? ” “Where will they go together? ”
Her swift moves, occasional outbursts and final breakdown, “burst into tears of bitterness”, could be described as melodramatic but I think it is necessary, for it Dickens to mimic and satirise the women who was “well born” and who is know running around in the rain acting like a “Robinson Crusoe”. It amplifies how far she has fallen down the social ladder and allows Dickens to show how he believes that placing such importance on people with wealthy backgrounds is misplaced.