Hard Times

Explain what Dickens means by the key note.

chapter 5

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The meaning of the title of Chapter 5, “The Key-note,” is not so immediately obvious. However, its meaning is clarified at the beginning of Chapter 8, when the narrator declares, “Let us strike the key-note again before pursuing the tune.” He then describes how, as a child, Louisa was inclined to wonder about the world around her, to ask questions, and to imagine. Not surprisingly, her father quickly suppressed this inclination, telling Louisa that she must “never wonder.” In Chapter 5, the narrator also draws our attention to the need for wonder and imagination when he compares the Gradgrind children to factory workers. He explains that both the children and the workers “have Fancy in them demanding to be brought into healthy existence.” From these passages, we can conclude that the conflict between fact and fancy is the “key-note,” or the key theme, that the narrator will continue to bring up throughout the novel.