Hard Times: Book 2 Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

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Men and Brothers

Summary

      A large number of workers have gathered together and their leader Slackbridge is addressing them. Slackbridge is a good orator and he is speaking over a particular worker who has denied to join Union Aggregate Tribunal (the name of worker’s union). The name of this particular worker is Stephen Blackpool. Slackbridge has called the union to expel Stephen and to treat him as an outcast.

      Few members suggest that Stephen should be given the opportunity to explain himself. Consequently, Stephen is told to justify himself. Why is he not willing to join the union? Stephen is neither a good orator nor has anything to say He says that he does not see what good will emerge out of the union activities and considering his disturbed and miserable life that he is leading for many years, he feels no interest to join the union.

      Stephen is made shut by Slackbridge as a traitor and everyone decides to excommunicate him. It means Stephen is left completely isolated. None of the workers will meet him or talk to him.

      Now Stephen’s life becomes more miserable. He is left alone in the crowd. In the beginning isolation seems to him very long and tormenting. He shivers at the thought of future. Even he does not meet Rachael these days. In fact, he himself avoids to see her because he does not want to trouble her. If union has seen him with Rachael, they will embarrass her. After four long days, Stephen receives a message given by Bitzer, the bank porter, that Mr. Bounderby wants to talk to him at his residence. Consequently, he goes to meet Bounderby.

Critical Analysis

      The union of factory workers is described in this chapter. Slackbridge is their leader whose oratory is a good example of exaggeration. He severely reprimands Stephen and regards him as a traitor among the workers.

      Though worker’s union is a good step yet we feel sympathy for Stephen who is the victim of circumstances. He is punished unjustly and his only affectionate friend is Rachael who is helpless to save him.

      Towards the end of the chapter, the psychology of an isolated man is admirably described.

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