Hard Times: Book 2 Chapter 6 - Summary & Analysis

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Fading Away


      When Stephen comes out of Bounderby’s house, he meets Rachael who has been waiting outside. Stephen sees an old woman in the company of Rachael whom he had once met when she had been trying to have a look of Bounderby outside his house. She says that by chance she met Rachael when she was standing outside the residence of Bounderby as she always does on her annual visit to this place. This time the old woman was very impatient to have a look at Bounderby’s wife but Stephen says that Mrs. Bounderby is beautiful and young and has “fine, dark thinking eyes”. Then he takes them to his room. Rachael asks if he has left his job; Stephen replies that he is out of a job now.

      The old woman, whose name is Mrs. Pegler is asked about her children; she says that she had a son whom somehow she has ‘lost”. At this point, landlady comes to inform that Mrs. Bounder by has come to meet Stephen. Mrs. Pegler says that no notice should be given to her and she should remain in a corner.

      Louisa, accompanied by the “whelp”, her brother Tom, comes. First, she misunderstands Rachael as Stephen’s wife but then she understands that it is Rachael whom Stephen keenly wants to marry if he could get rid of his wife. She also comes to know that because of his promise to Rachael, Stephen had denied to join the union. Rachael also says that she had told Stephen to be away from union activities under his own interest.

      Louisa then offers a large bank note as a kind of help to Stephen for being unemployed. Stephen does not want to hurt Louisa who has sympathy for him, thus he accepts only two pounds under the self-created condition to pay back.

      Before leaving, Tom speaks privately to Stephen and instructs him to wait for him near the bank in the evening after finishing his duty in the factory. Stephen has to complete the weaving thus he has to work for two or three days more. He promises Tom that he would wait for his message outside the bank building for few days. Tom says that he will hear something good for himself if he waits there. Tom says that Bitzer will carry his message.

Critical Analysis

      Here again, we meet the old woman, impatient to have a look at Bounderby. Now, we come to know that her name is Mrs. Pegler, she had a son whom she has “lost”. Still, it is not told who she is and what is there to cause so much interest in her look at Bounderby and Louisa. There is some mystery because the lady does not wish to face either Louisa or Bounderby.

      Louisa is again drawn as a good character because she forms a nice opinion about Stephen though she has seen him only for a very short period. She goes all the way to his residence and offers him great financial help.

      We feel some, mystery in Tom’s instructions to Stephen to wander near the bank building in the evening if he wants to meet him. Actually, Tom is not that kind of fellow who even thinks about the good of someone else except himself. Thus it creates suspense that Stephen waited outside the bank building for Tom but nothing happens. Somehow we feel that this is not the end of the matter.

      The love between Rachael and Stephen is quite genuine. Thus, their parting seems very pathetic: “It was but a hurried parting in a common street, yet it was a sacred strong remembrance for these common people. “Stephen’s last words at the moment of parting are “Heaven bless thee! Heaven thank thee and reward thee! Good night, goodbye!”

      Now Dickens interferes the development of story He addresses “utilitarian economists, skeletons of schoolmasters and commissioners of fact” and to persuade them in order to cultivate affection, emotion, and grace and not to concentrate only on mechanical treatment of life. He warns: “Reality will take a wolfish turn and make an end of you.”

      The departure episode of Stephen from Coketown is depicted as to touch the reader’s heart. Everything seems “wan” at that early morning hour. Even the sunrise makes “a pale waste in the sky like a sad sea”.

      For Stephen, it was very painful to bid farewell to a town where he has worked for so long.

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