Mrs Sparsit is one of the characters used in the novel for comic purposes but through her Dickens satirises the importance, at that time, of being “highly connected” and the selfishness of looking out for “number one” only. Dickens chooses her to have very distinct features for example a “Coriolanian style of nose”, which he repeats several times throughout the novel to establish her as a sinister, as well as a comic character.
Throughout the novel Dickens compares Mrs Sparsit to various fanciful images to highlight her comic qualities and for ironical purposes to satirise the Utilitarian philosophy. Dickens almost suggests that she is a witch who could be “suspected of dropping over the banisters or sliding down them”, as she prowls about Bounderby’s house swiftly. He also refers to her as “Robinson Crusoe” when she is spying on Louisa and Harthouse and as the “Bank Dragon” which all contributes to developing her as a menacing, scheming, pathetic character.
In the chapter “Mrs Sparsit”, there is humour in the fact that by addressing Bounderby as “Sir”, rather then honouring him she is honouring herself. Mrs Sparsit and Bounderby make a likely couple as they both enjoy complementing each other to exaggerate their respective positions in life. He needs her to boost his “rag to riches” story and she is his main source of pride, and she needs him to act as a reminder of her dignified past.
I think that Dickens portrays both characters as caricatures – no matter what happens to either character throughout the novel their undesirable qualities remain within them and if anything, they become more obvious. Dickens uses this technique with regards to Mrs Sparsit’s growing contempt for Louisa throughout the novel. Dickens informs the reader that Mrs Sparsit had always imagined that she would be Mr Bounderby’s wife and therefore his growing interest in Louisa leads to her growing obsession with Louisa.
The reader first sees Mrs Sparsit’s underlying contempt for Louisa when she says to Bounderby that he is “quite another father” to the “little puss”. Soon enough Mrs Sparsit’s fears become a reality as Bounderby and Louisa get engaged and she is asked to move out. The fact Bounderby is concerned about how to break the news to her because he is unsure of whether she will be hysterical or refuse to leave adds to her comic dimension, but much to Bounderby’s surprise she takes the news in an “impressively compassionate manner” by saying,
“I fondly hope that Miss Gradgrind may be all you desire and deserve! ” From this point on in the novel she regards Bounderby as a victim, much to his annoyance, as she only senses a miserable future. She repeats several times how she wishes to see Bounderby cheerful as she used to, to remind him of her previous role in his life and reinforce how she believes marrying Louisa was a mistake as Louisa doesn’t play backgammon with him or make him his favourite drink.
There is comedy in the way that Mrs Sparsit calls Bounderby a “noodle” to his portrait to emphasis the pity she has for him for entering into such a marriage. Whenever in the presence of Louisa she refuses to call her Mrs Bounderby, but prefers to call her Miss Gradgrind which is very insulting as Louisa is no longer a child but Bounderby’s wife. She takes on a role in front of Louisa as a humble woman for example by kissing Bounderby’s hand and calling him her “benefactor” but this is a technique by Dickens to exaggerate her character and make her more irritating.