Hard Times: Book 3 Chapter 5 - Summary & Analysis

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      Even after so many days, nothing is heard about Stephen Blackpool. But Rachael has still not lost her faith in Stephen. She says to Sissy who has become very close to her that she has this premonition that someone has killed Stephen, the man has done it not to be exposed as the criminal because if Stephen would have been successful to vindicate himself he might be exposed. Sissy suggests that Rachael should walk a long distance in the fields in order to soothe her mind. Thus it is decided that both Rachael and Sissy will go on for a walk by the countryside on the coming Sunday.

      As these two ladies are walking through the street where Bounderby lives, they see Mrs. Sparsit quite disturbed and commanding an old lady to come out of a carriage. Lots of men have gathered there because of the manner Mrs. Sparsit was, bullying the woman. Mrs. Sparsit takes that lady into Bounderby's house and tells him that she has been fortunate enough in being successful to catch hold of the old woman who had been observed in Stephen’s company outside the bank and who was suspected to be Stephen’s partner

      When Bounderby sees the old woman, he bursts into fury and asks Mrs. Sparsit in loud voice why is she interfering in his family life. The old woman is shuddering and addresses Bounderby as “my dear darling boy” and says that she herself has not come here but forcibly dragged by Mrs. Sparsit. Thus it is made clear through the words of this old lady that Mrs. Pegler is Bounderby’s mother. Mr. Gradgrind who is present there in the house of Bounderby at that time, rebukes Mrs. Pegler for talking with love and softness to Bounderby because she had deserted Bounderby in his most tender age under the charge of a drunken grandmother. Mrs. Pegler gets surprised. She calls Gradgrind a liar. She reveals that her mother had died before her son Josiah was born and she herself has brought up Josiah with utmost care in spite of being too poor. When Jasiah has grown young and become prosperous, he had pensioned her off on thirty pounds a year, under the condition that she should, stay in the countryside and never trouble or claim that he is her son. Since that time she has been visiting Coketown once a year in order to have a look at her son from some distance.

      Bounderby does not say that Mrs. Pegler is wrong. He only says that he is not bound to explain his family matter to anyone. Then he dismisses the crowd. However, a bed is given to Mrs. Pegler at her son Josiah Bounderby’s house.

      Louisa and Sissy are sharing a common fear though they have not revealed to each other. Both are suspecting Tom the real culprit who might have manipulated things as killing Stephen in order to stop him from justifying himself as innocent. Tom now very rarely comes to meet Louisa and still he remains close to Bounderby and moves with him like shadow.

Critical Analysis

      Sissy’s character is more enlightened. As we know that Sissy’s heart is full of sympathy and kindness, she is feeling greatly troubled on Rachael’s account of apprehension that Stephen might be killed from the real culprit. Sissy meets her in order to comfort her and relieve her from pain.

      The chapter is important even for the development of plot. The amazing discovery of the fact is that Mrs. Pegler is the mother of Bounderby and his account of past life as a self-made man, told to everybody is proved solely false. Bounderby is exposed as an imposter. Now this most boisterous personality is turned into a ridiculous figure. Dickens says, “he could not have looked a bully more shorn and fortune if he had his ears cropped.” His condition is more pensive than Mrs. Sparsit.

      Mrs. Sparsit too is made again a funny figure. She has thought of getting more favor out of Bounderby through dragging Mrs. Pegler from her house to Bounderby, but she becomes an instrument of exploiting her employer as an imposter. Bounderby becomes the victim of irony of situation. He is exposed through the person who seems to him his great well-wisher and who understands him very well.

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