Hard Times: Book 3 Chapter 4 - Summary & Analysis

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      Now Bounderby announces the reward of twenty pounds to anyone who will help in catching Stephen Blackpool because nothing has come out still after the investigations, and nothing has been heard about the location of Stephen Blackpool or that mysterious old lady. The reward is announced through an advertisement pasted on the factory wall. For Slackbridge it is a good opportunity to address the workers on Stephen’s alleged deception of the worker’s cause. In his speech, he calls Stephen a thief, a plunderer and a truant from justice. He congratulates the workers on their last decision, that is to discard Stephen.

      This kind of public humiliation has greatly hurt the feelings of Rachael. She goes to Bounderby and not only says that Stephen is innocent but tells him about Louisa and Tom’s visit to Stephen’s lodging two or three days before Stephen’s departure from the Coketown.

      Bounderby can not believe this story and he takes Rachael to the sick Louisa. Rachael says Louisa to confirm what she has told to Bounderby, Louisa confirms it that she and Tom had visited Stephen’s house and she had offered financial help to him. Though Rachael is suspicious about Louisa’s intention behind calling upon Stephen and offering financial help yet Louisa, assisted by Sissy, tries her best to wipe it out from Rachael’s mind.

      Rachael tells to Bounderby in front of everybody that she knows where Stephen is and also that she has written a letter to him to come and clear himself from the charges that are made against him. She says that Stephen will be here within two days.

      Two days pass away and Stephen has not come. On the fourth day, Rachael meets Bounderby with a letter written by Stephen. It also contains his address. It is known from the letter that Stephen had secured a job at some working colony about sixty miles away from Coketown. Now Bounderby sends messengers to that place in order to fetch Stephen. The messengers return with the information that after receiving Rachael’s letter Stephen has immediately left the place and nobody knows where is he. Even after six or seven days, no trace of Stephen is seen.

Critical Analysis

      Bounderby’s baseness of character is more exposed in this chapter. He feels quite sure that robbery was committed by Stephen and thus he announces a reward for the man who will assist in Stephen’s arrest. Dickens rightly observes Bounderby as a “remarkable - man and a self-made man and a commercial wonder more admirable than venus, who had risen out of the mud instead of the sea.” Bounderby also disbelieves Rachael’s information of Louisa’s visit to Stephen, but even after Louisa’s confirmation of what Rachael has said he remains quite unembarrassed.

      Slackbridge is again satirized for his extravagant oratory and his extremely rhetorical manner of speech when he condemns Stephen. Slackbridge pretends himself as a greatest well-wisher of workers and Stephen as the greatest villain in the whole world.

      Though Stephen does not turn up to Coketown yet Rachael’s confidence is Stephen’s integrity and honesty does not have shaken. She throws off all distrust “as a rock throws off the sea.”

      Tom’s behavior in this chapter, makes the reader’s suspicion more certain that is already noticed by them through his tears after the leave of Louisa from his room. His condition is interpreted as: “He was greatly excited, horribly fevered bit his nails down to the quick, spoke in a hard rattling voice.”

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