Hard Times: Book 1 Chapter 10 - Summary & Analysis

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Stephen Blackpool


      Stephen Blackpool is among the industrial workers of Coketown. He is forty years old but looks older because of the hard for he is undertaking. He has no importance among the worker leaders who deliver speeches and carry on debates. But he is a man of perfect integrity; and a good power looms weaver. He has a friend named Rachael, a lady few years younger than him. She is also an industrial worker. Sometimes they meet each other at the end of their working hours and go for walk some distance together. On one evening Stephen is waiting for Rachael till she comes. Rachael is happy to see him but expresses that there is the danger of their seeing together quite often. It irritates Stephen not to be able to enjoy Rachael’s company as frequently as he longs for. Life seems to be nothing but a muddle for him. After walking together, Rachael bids good night and goes into her house and Stephen takes his way to the house.

      When Stephen enters his room, he gets shock to find a lady in his bed. She is drunk and disabled, “a creature so foul to look at, in her tatters, stains, and splashes, but so much fouler than that in her moral infancy that it was a shameful thing even to see her.” When Stephen gets annoyed the lady says that she has all the right to come into his room. Then she falls into a deep slumber because of the alcoholic effect (The woman is Stephen’s wife whom he has deserted long ago but she keeps on making nuisance to him by coming to his house after having liquor).

Critical Analysis

      Three more new characters are introduced in this chapter — Rachael, Stephen and his drunken wife. Very briefly their physical appearances and moral features are described. Stephen and Rachael win our likings but her wife appears as a repulsive character.

      In this chapter new development in the plot takes place though no link between the three has still been established yet we feel that they have some inevitable role to play The visit of a drunken women (Stephen’s wife)) to Stephen’s lodging greatly surprises us.

      The chapter is important for its additional comments that Dickens makes on Coketown and its people. The author says, “The innermost fortifications of that ugly citadel, where Nature was as strongly bricked out as killing airs and gases were bricked in.” Dickens says ironically that workers are not called laborers or workers, they are only called “the hands”. Though Dickens has described the filthiness, squalid and ugliness of industrial towns yet, he was not blind to its bright aspects. “The lights in the great factories, which looked, when they were illuminated, like fairy place....”

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