Hard Times: Book 1 Chapter 11 - Summary & Analysis

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No Way Out


      Next day; during lunch, Stephen, in a state of mental agony calls upon his employer Mr. Bounderby Mr. Bounderby finds no objection to meeting Stephen because as a workman Stephen has a good position. Stephen seeks Bounderby’s advice in regard to the unwelcome visit of his-wife. He explains how he had married that woman, what had he sacrificed for her, how he had been unsuccessful in reforming her and how he had kept himself away from her. Much of the story is known to Bounderby, and all that Bounderby can state now is that Stephen can hardly do anything. When Stephen seeks Bounderby’s advice on how can he get rid of his wife, Bounderby reminds him of his marriage vow according to that a Christian man accepts a woman for better and for worse. Stephen says that he has heard about a rich folk who get rid of their wives and that there must be some way open to him also, so that he can marry another woman of great source of delight to him. At this Bounderby says that there is way but it is too expensive for him to afford. Thus he has to accept his fate. Stephen then goes away stating that life is a muddle and would be better after death.

Critical Analysis

      Stephen’s misery is very elaborately described in this chapter. But there is no way to escape from the miseries. We feel sympathy for him. Both Bounderby and Mrs. Sparsit are satirized for their proposal of not leaving the drunkard wife whatever ill she is doing with him. Bounderby tells him to recall the marriage vow and Mrs. Sparsit says that his interest in getting rid of his wife is a typical impiety of workmen.

      Dickens regrets over calling the laborers “hands” as they are not full-fledged human beings. He makes fun of the scientific attitude of mind when he refers to the workers as “so many hundred hands in this mill, so many hundred horse steam power.” Dickens has also ridiculed the attitude of those who regard human beings as machines.

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