Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Coketown. Fictional factory town in northern England that offers nothing that is not “severely workful.” Coketown is center of Dickens’s social criticism. As “a triumph of fact,” it is grim, unnatural, and mechanical, from the polluted purple river to the identical laborers who all “do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow.” Forested with the smokestacks of its textile mills, it is a “sulky blotch upon the prospect,” abandoned by the sun even in sunny midsummer. Its tenements, such as Stephen Blackpool’s home, tainted by poverty and by the drunken wife to whom he is irrevocably tied, reflect the miserable sameness and grinding labor of the workers’ lives, empty of leisure and of fancy, which the utilitarian mill owners and politicians see as mere idleness. While Coketown is often associated with the real industrial towns of Leeds, Preston, and Manchester in the north, Dickens saw his commentary as touching on English workers everywhere.
Factory. Textile mill in Coketown, owned by Josiah Bounderby. Bounderby’s factory is typical, for Dickens, of the factory system. Lit up by night, the factories look from a distance like “Fairy palaces.” Yet they are not the dream palaces of fairies; instead they are nightmarishly inhabited by the “melancholy mad elephants,” the pistons of steam engines working up and down. In its bitter monotony,...
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The period in which Dickens wrote is called the Victorian Age, after the popular, long-lived Queen Victoria, who occupied the throne of England from 1837—the very year Dickens made his debut in fiction—until 1901.
Victorian England was the scene of enormous, far-reaching changes: changes in the nature and organization of work, in population growth, and changes in the very landscape itself, brought about by the railway and the growth of wholly new industrial cities and towns like the Coketown described in Hard Times.
In 1812, when Dickens was born, England had a largely agricultural economy and a population of around nine million. The great majority passed their lives in the country, working the fields and farms as their ancestors had done before them. A small class of landowners held much of the political power, presiding over a small electorate of propertied men. Although the American and French Revolutions had occurred recently enough to be a living memory, England in 1812 felt itself to be, and to some extent was, continuous with the England of past ages, a hierarchical society based on hereditary privilege with unquestioned traditions, beliefs, and a settled order.
By 1854, however, the year Dickens published Hard Times, conditions were quite different. Half the people lived in towns or cities, and there were vastly more of them: in 1851, when a census was taken, the population had passed the 17 million mark....
(The entire section is 617 words.)
Book I, Chapters 1-2: Questions and Answers
1. Chapter 1 is entitled “The One Thing Needful.” What is that one thing?
2. What does Gradgrind want to “plant” and what does he want to “root out” of his pupils?
3. To whom does Gradgrind say “Sissy is not a name…Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.”
4. What gesture does Bitzer make once he finishes his answer?
5. What direct comment does the narrator permit himself about the teacher M’Choakumchild?
6. The “government officer” is compared to what kind of professional athlete?
7. Instead of patterned china and wallpaper and flowery carpets, with what does the government officer urge the children to decorate their homes?
8. Which character is said to have been, with 140 others, “turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs”?
9. How does the girl Sissy’s physical appearance differ from the boy Bitzer’s?
10. Which “calling” (occupation) does Gradgrind not wish mentioned in his classroom?
1. “Facts” are the one thing needful, at least as far as Gradgrind and his associates are concerned. The phrase is meant to suggest the reductiveness of Gradgrind’s philosophy.
2. Again, “Facts” are what Gradgrind wishes to plant in the minds of the children; to be rooted out is any suggestion...
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Book I, Chapters 3-4: Questions and Answers
1. Gradgrind is “virtually retired” from what occupation?
2. How does Stone Lodge, Gradgrind’s house, resemble its owner?
3. Who is often referred to as “eminently practical”?
4. Which character describes himself as “a young vagabond”?
5. Who says, “Go and be somethingological directly.”?
6. Signor Jupe, Sissy Jupe’s father, performs in the circus with what animal?
7. Mr. Gradgrind’s political ambitions include what?
8. Who asked whom to come peep at the circus?
9. Why does Mr. Bounderby always “throw” on his hat?
10. What is Louisa’s reaction to Mr. Bounderby’s kiss?
1. Gradgrind has virtually retired from the “wholesale hardware trade.”
2. Stone Lodge resembles its owner in several ways. It is square, regular, “balanced” (six windows on one side and six on the other). It is an “uncompromising fact on the landscape.”
And its portico (covered porch with columns) looks like Gradgrind’s forehead.
3. Thomas Gradgrind is referred to as “eminently practical” by fellow Coketowners. He refers to himself as “eminently practical.”
4. Mr. Bounderby, recounting his childhood and youth, calls himself a young vagabond.
5. Mrs. Gradgrind is in the habit of saying this when she wants to dismiss the children to...
(The entire section is 302 words.)
Book I, Chapters 5-6: Questions and Answers
1. What does Coketown’s river run with?
2. Coketown’s buildings are made of what material?
3. What does Bitzer tell Gradgrind he was about to help Sissy with before she ran away?
4. What is Sissy carrying when she is stopped by Gradgrind and Bounderby?
5. The picture behind the bar in the Pegasus’ Arms is of what animal?
6. Why did Signor Jupe enroll his daughter in Gradgrind’s school?
7. What is a “cackler”?
8. The “Wild Horseman of the North American Prairies” refers to which of Sleary’s performers?
9. Who is “the diminutive boy with an old face”?
10. What does Mr. Sleary declare he has never done yet in his life and doesn’t intend to start?
1. The river in Coketown runs purple with dye.
2. The buildings in Coketown are red and black—red from the brick, black from the soot of the factory chimneys.
3. Bitzer tells Gradgrind he was only trying to help Sissy with her definitions.
4. Sissy is carrying a jar of “nine oils” used by the circus performers to soothe their muscles.
5. The picture in the bar shows a horse.
6. Signor Jupe enrolled Sissy in Gradgrind’s school because he “had always had it in his head” to have her educated.
7. A “cackler,” in the jargon of the circus, is a speaker....
(The entire section is 269 words.)
Book I, Chapter 7: Questions and Answers
1. What is Mrs. Sparsit occupied in making for her employer?
2. How much does Mr. Bounderby pay yearly for Mrs. Sparsit’s services?
3. Where did the late Mr. Sparsit die, and of what?
4. What has to happen before Tom Gradgrind can start to work for Bounderby?
5. Who speaks “with a kind of social widowhood” upon her?
6. Who is said to have a “moral infection of clap-trap in him”?
7. When does Mr. Gradgrind lower his voice?
8. What is the “oversight” Gradgrind mentions?
9. Which of Mrs. Sparsit’s facial features are most pronounced?
10. Who is to be “reclaimed and formed” and in what way?
1. Mrs. Sparsit is preparing Mr. Bounderby’s breakfast tea.
2. Mr. Bounderby gives Mrs. Sparsit 100 pounds a year.
3. Mr. Sparsit died from consuming too much brandy in Calais, France.
4. Tom must finish up his education before coming to work for Bounderby.
5. Mrs. Sparsit is said to speak with an air of “social widowhood.”
6. This phrase applies to Mr. Bounderby; Dickens is referring to the way strangers, ordinarily modest, take to boasting about him.
7. Mr. Gradgrind lowers his voice when he talks to Louisa about her reading.
8. Mr. Gradgrind is referring to Sissy’s failure to include Mrs. Sparsit in her...
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Book I, Chapter 8: Questions and Answers
1. What do you think Dickens means by the opening words of Chapter 8, “Let us strike the key-note again, before pursuing the tune”?
2. How many church denominations compete for the allegiance of Coketown’s population?
3. Mr. Gradgrind is said to have “greatly tormented his mind” about what?
4. Who does Tom say hates him and all the family?
5. The “Jaundiced Jail” is Tom’s way of referring to what?
6. What does Louisa wish she had learned, so as to be able to “reconcile” Tom to conditions at home?
7. What will be Tom’s “revenge” when he goes off to work at Bounderby’s?
8. In what way does Tom propose to “smooth” and “manage” Bounderby?
9. What does Tom see in the fire?
10. Mrs. Gradgrind repeats which one of her favorite “cogent remarks” to her children?
1. By the “key-note,” Dickens may mean his educational theme, and by the “tune” how it works itself out in the story of Tom and Louisa Gradgrind. The “key-note” might also refer to his evocation of Coketown.
2. There are 18 churches in Coketown.
3. Mr. Gradgrind worries greatly about what books people take out of Coketown’s library.
4. Tom believes that Sissy Jupe hates him and all his family.
5. Tom calls Stone Lodge a “Jaundiced Jail.”...
(The entire section is 326 words.)
Book I, Chapter 9: Questions and Answers
1. Whispering the “awful word,” Sissy divulges that her father is a what?
2. What word always reminds Sissy of stutterings?
3. What “terrible communication” does Sissy make about her mother?
4. What does Sissy remember her father doing when she was “quite a baby”?
5. What is Sissy’s reply to Louisa’s question about where she lived with her father?
6. Which of the stories Sissy read her father did he seem particularly to enjoy?
7. What was the object of Sissy’s father’s one outburst of anger?
8. Why does every letter that she sees in Mr. Gradgrind’s hand take Sissy’s breath away and blind her eyes?
9. “That not unprecedented triumph of calculation which is usually at work on number one” refers to which character?
10. Asked for the first principle of political economy, Sissy’s “absurd” answer is what?
1. Sissy tells Louisa that her father is a clown (in the circus).
2. The word “statistics” always reminds Sissy of stutterings.
3. Sissy’s “terrible communication” is that her mother was a dancer.
4. Sissy remembers her father carrying her.
5. Sissy says she traveled about the country, never staying in one place.
6. Sissy’s father took particular delight in the Arabian Nights.
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Book I, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers
1. Who are the “Hands” of Coketown?
2. Only in his expression does Blackpool resemble what set of men?
3. What do travelers by express train say about the spectacle of Coketown’s factories at night?
4. How old is Rachael?
5. Why does the undertaker in Rachael’s neighborhood have a black ladder?
6. The “crashing, smashing, tearing piece of mechanism” refers to what?
7. How does Mrs. Sparsit react when Blackpool says he has come to ask, “How I am to be ridded o’ this woman?”
8. How has the old woman traveled to Coketown?
9. How long has Blackpool worked in Gradgrind’s factory?
10. Why does Stephen again look for Rachael among the women leaving the factory?
1. The “Hands” refers to the great majority of Coketown’s population, those who work in its factories.
2. Blackpool’s face looks intelligent, but he is not one of those workers who, “piecing together their broken intervals of leisure through many years, had mastered difficult sciences.”
3. The travelers say the factories look, lit up as they are at night, like “Fairy palaces.”
4. Rachael is 35.
5. The undertaker has a black ladder “in order that those who had done their daily groping up and down the narrow stairs might slide out of this working world by the...
(The entire section is 339 words.)
Book I, Chapter 13: Questions and Answers
1. What object makes Stephen compare Rachael to the stars?
2. What item of Rachael’s clothing does Stephen kiss?
3. How many times does he kiss it?
4. What does Rachael break on the hearth?
5. Whose little sister is imagined to be among the angels?
6. The red finger marks on Rachael’s forehead are from what?
7. Who is the woman Stephen stands beside in church, in the “imaginary happiness” of his dream?
8. Which of the Ten Commandments would it seem Stephen sees and hears in his dream?
9. What time is it when Stephen and Rachael both wake?
10. During the whole of this chapter, what is happening outside Stephen’s room?
1. The candle in his window makes Stephen compare her to the stars. His idea is that Rachael sheds her light down on the ordinary circumstances of his life as the “shining” faraway stars do the “heavy” candle, with its low light.
2. Stephen kisses the fringes of Rachael’s shawl.
3. He kisses her shawl twice.
4. After emptying it, Rachael breaks the bottle marked “Poison” on the hearth.
5. Rachael speaks of a younger sister who died. In his final speech to her, Stephen speaks of how they will one day “walk together far awa’, beyond the deep gulf, in th’ country where thy little sister is.”
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Book I, Chapters 14-15: Questions and Answers
1. Of what aspects of Sissy’s performance in school does Mr. Gradgrind complain?
2. What does Dickens mean when he writes that Gradgrind has become “one of the respected members for ounce weights and measure, one of the deaf honorable gentlemen, dumb honorable gentlemen, blind honorable gentlemen, dead honorable gentlemen, to every other consideration”?
3. When does Louisa give her father the same look as the night she was found peeping at the circus?
4. When Tom says to his sister, “It would do me a great deal of good if you were to make up your mind to I know what, Loo. It would be a splendid thing for me. It would be uncommonly jolly!” what is he alluding to?
5. Why is Gradgrind’s study “quite a blue chamber”?
6. What does Louisa say when her father announces that she has been the subject of a proposal of marriage?
7. Mr. Gradgrind reminds Louisa that much depends on the sense in which a certain expression is used. What is that expression?
8. What is it, in the course of his conversation with his daughter, that Mr. Gradgrind takes satisfaction in knowing?
9. What does Louisa look at for a long time as she considers what to say to her father?
10. What is Louisa’s new attitude to Sissy, from the moment she senses her response to her upcoming marriage?
1. Mr. Gradgrind is...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Book I, Chapter 16: Questions and Answers
1. The “deadly statistical recorder” in Gradgrind’s study refers to what?
2. When is Louisa, for the first time, a little shaken in the reserved composure she adopts on her wedding day?
3. What does Mrs. Sparsit prefer that Mr. Bounderby call the “terms” (salary) of her employment?
4. What sort of factual knowledge do the wedding guests bring to the Gradgrind-Bounderby wedding feast?
5. Mrs. Sparsit says she has long been under the necessity of “eating the bread of dependence”; what in fact is her favorite supper dish?
6. What precaution does Mr. Bounderby take before communicating to Mrs. Sparsit the news of his upcoming marriage?
7. What horrific image does Mrs. Sparsit’s operation with a scissors on a piece of cambric suggest to Dickens?
8. Where are Louisa and Bounderby going on their honeymoon, and what does Bounderby look forward to finding out when they get there?
9. Mrs. Sparsit accepts her new position at the bank, after assuring herself of what one thing?
10. Louisa and Bounderby are married in a church with what distinctive architectural feature?
1. The phrase, part of another extended metaphor, refers to Gradgrind’s clock.
2. Louisa’s assumed composure is shaken when her brother embraces her at the bottom of the stairs.
3. Mrs. Sparsit prefers...
(The entire section is 366 words.)
Book II, Chapters 1-3: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Dickens declare that Coketown’s very existence is a wonder?
2. What “fiction of Coketown” takes the form of a threat?
3. The Fairy Palaces, on hot days, have the atmosphere of a what?
4. After office hours in Bounderby’s bank, what room does Mrs. Sparsit like to sit in?
5. What does Mrs. Sparsit like to think of herself as, and what do people passing by Bounderby’s bank think of her as?
6. Bitzer shows himself to be an “excellent young economist” in what remarkable instance?
7. Why does Mrs. Sparsit exclaim, “O you fool!” to herself, after Harthouse has left the bank?
8. In the sentences “They liked fine gentlemen; they pretended that they did not, but they did. They became exhausted in imitation of them…” who is meant by “they”?
9. What does Bounderby tell Harthouse of Coketown’s smoke?
10. Before the family dinner, what does Bounderby propose that he and Harthouse do?
1. Dickens speaks of Coketown in this manner because its leading manufacturers are always claiming to be “ruined.”
2. This fiction of Coketown is the manufacturers’ talk, whenever they feel their profits are being interfered with, of throwing all their property into the Atlantic.
3. The Fairy Palaces, or factories, have on hot days the atmosphere of a simoon (a...
(The entire section is 362 words.)
Book II, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers
1. What does Dickens find notably lacking in the meeting of the Coketown workers?
2. The man who, in Slackbridge’s speech, “deserts his post, and sells his flag,” refers to whom?
3. A “strong voice” in the meeting hall calls for what?
4. Blackpool makes no complaint about being made into an outcast but asks that he be allowed just one thing. What thing is that?
5. Who during the meeting feels “more sorry than indignant” toward Blackpool?
6. What does Slackbridge, acting like “fugleman” (a drill sergeant) call for as soon as Stephen leaves the meeting hall?
7. What are Mr. Bounderby’s first words to Stephen, and why do they fall “rudely and discordantly” on his ears?
8. About what does Stephen say he is as sorry as Bounderby?
9. How does Stephen manage to most exasperate Bounderby?
10. Why does Stephen object to Bounderby’s talk of imprisoning Slackbridge and other leaders like him?
1. Dickens points out that the audience betrays no sign of “carelessness, no languor, no idle curiosity.”
2. Slackbridge uses these words to refer to Stephen Blackpool.
3. The strong voice demands that if Blackpool is present he be heard from.
4. Stephen asks that he be allowed to remain working.
5. Most of the audience feels this way toward...
(The entire section is 309 words.)
Book II, Chapter 6: Questions and Answers
1. How does the strange old woman come to be in Rachael’s company?
2. What do Stephen, Rachael, and the old woman have for their tea, and how does the meal fulfill the standard testimony of the Coketown magnates that “these people lived like princes, Sir”?
3. What name does the old lady give herself and what does she say about her son?
4. Early on in her visit, what potentially hurtful question does Louisa ask Stephen?
5. Louisa learns that her husband’s firing of Stephen will have what effect upon Stephen’s reputation?
6. What does Dickens say about the manner in which Stephen accepts Louisa’s offer of help?
7. What nervous action does Tom perform as he makes his proposal to Stephen?
8. Where do Rachael and Stephen take the old lady shortly after the visitors leave?
9. What feeling comes over Stephen as he waits outside Bounderby’s bank?
10. What time of day is it when Stephen leaves Coketown?
1. The old lady is in Coketown on her mysterious annual pilgrimage. Coming across Rachael on the street outside Bounderby’s home, she falls to talking with her—much as once before she had done with Stephen.
2. The tea they consume consists of real tea, lump sugar, a new loaf of bread from a nearby shop, and fresh butter. Dickens suggests that the Coketown magnates would point to...
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Book II, Chapters 7-8: Questions and Answers
1. According to Mr. Harthouse, what is the only difference between the “hard Fact fellows” and their opponents, the “philanthropists” and “professors of virtue”?
2. What does Mr. Harthouse write to his brother soon after his arrival in Coketown?
3. What does Mr. Bounderby say were the only pictures in his possession as a youth?
4. Who is the previous owner of Bounderby’s summer house?
5. In the course of their conversation in the forest clearing, Louisa confides to Harthouse that she has been doing what for her brother, Tom?
6. What is Tom doing as he walks through the trees on Bounderby’s estate, not knowing that Harthouse and his sister are observing him?
7. According to Mr. Bounderby, what does Louisa do when she hears the news of the robbery?
8. In discussing who the perpetrators of the bank robbery might be, which of the many “fictions of Coketown” does Mr. Bounderby give voice to?
9. What remains Mrs. Sparsit’s “greatest point, first and last”?
10. What does Louisa say she wants to know, when she goes to her brother’s room?
1. Harthouse says the only difference between them is that while the advocates of the hard Fact school and their opponents both know that humanitarianism is “meaningless,” their opponents will never say so.
2. Mr. Harthouse writes...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
Book II, Chapter 9: Questions and Answers
1. What is Mrs. Sparsit always smoothing?
2. “Serve you right, you Noodle, and I am glad of it” is said by what character, and what does it mean?
3. The train to and from Bounderby’s country retreat passes over what kind of countryside?
4. Why does Dickens speak of Bitzer as a “fit servitor” at death’s door?
5. What “idol” has presided grimly over Louisa’s childhood?
6. Where is Mr. Gradgrind while his wife lies dying?
7. To whom has Louisa “never softened” since leaving home?
8. With what kind of feeling does Louisa go to see her mother?
9. With what “strange speech” does Mrs. Gradgrind answer her daughter’s question as to whether she is in pain?
10. About what does Louisa experience a “rising feeling of resentment” as she stands by her mother’s deathbed?
1. Mrs. Sparsit is always smoothing her mittens.
2. Mrs. Sparsit says this, addressing Mr. Bounderby’s portrait; she means, presumably, that the imminent collapse of his marriage will serve him right.
3. The train passes over a “wild country of past and present coal-pits.”
4. The extreme pallor of Bitzer’s skin is here associated with death.
5. The idol of Reason has dominated Louisa’s childhood.
6. Mr. Gradgrind is “hard at it in the national...
(The entire section is 276 words.)
Book II, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers
1. Since when does Mrs. Sparsit complain of her nerves?
2. How does Harthouse describe Blackpool’s speech before Bounderby?
3. From the “House of Commons to the House of Corrections,” observes Mr. Harthouse, “there is a general profession of morality,” with, however, one exception. Which one is that?
4. The expression the “national cinder-heap” refers to what?
5. What rather odd piece of advice does Mrs. Sparsit give her employer?
6. In his study at Stone Lodge, Gradgrind is at work, “proving something.” What does Dickens suppose he is trying to prove?
7. When he hears a particularly loud clap of thunder from the storm that has been raging all night, Gradgrind glances toward where?
8. What significant gesture accompanies Louisa’s passionate speech to her father?
9. What does Louisa say it would have been better for her to be?
10. Why does Louisa say she was not “wholly indifferent” to the prospect of her marriage to Bounderby?
1. Mrs. Sparsit’s nerves have been in a delicate state ever since the robbery.
2. Mr. Harthouse contemptuously refers to Blackpool’s speech as “lengthy and prosy in the extreme…in the humble-virtue style of eloquence.”
3. Mr. Harthouse says that the one exception to the professions of morality coming from every side is...
(The entire section is 395 words.)
Book III, Chapters 1-2: Questions and Answers
1. The title of Chapter 1 refers back to which other chapter title, and why?
2. At first Louisa has an impression that all the events of her life since leaving her childhood room are like what?
3. What does Louisa allow her sister to do?
4. What kind of look does Louisa’s father have on his face?
5. What does Gradgrind say about himself with special earnestness, and that Dickens gives him credit for believing?
6. What is the belief that Mr. Gradgrind says he has never shared but that now he must consider afresh?
7. Why does Harthouse keep ringing his bell all night for the hotel porter?
8. Where does Harthouse look for Louisa?
9. Why does Harthouse, telling himself that “it may be as well to be in training,” order a steak dinner?
10. Of what does Harthouse admit to having taken advantage?
1. The title of Book 3, Chapter 1 refers to the novel’s first chapter, “The One Thing Needful”; the facts that Mr. Gradgrind had there extolled as the one thing needful will not serve now. The “other thing” may be the compassion that Louisa receives from both her father and Sissy.
2. Louisa has the impression that since her wedding, the events of her life are as the shadows of a dream.
3. Louisa allows her sister to hold her hand.
4. Mr. Gradgrind carries a...
(The entire section is 362 words.)
Book III, Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
1. What is it that Gradgrind is surprised Bounderby has missed?
2. Asked to speak, Mrs. Sparsit is reduced to what?
3. What does Mr. Bounderby call Mr. Harthouse?
4. What does Gradgrind entreat Bounderby, for his own sake and for Louisa’s?
5. When Bounderby learns where Louisa is, he demands what from Mrs. Sparsit?
6. What does Mr. Bounderby advise his housekeeper to do when she returns to the bank?
7. Bounderby takes offense at Gradgrind’s use of which common form of address?
8. According to Bounderby, what is the nature of the “incompatibility” between him and his wife?
9. Why does Bounderby declare he is glad that Gradgrind says he is being unreasonable?
10. What does Bounderby say he plans to tell anyone who asks him about his decision to part from Louisa?
1. Mr. Gradgrind is surprised that Mr. Bounderby has missed his letter.
2. Mrs. Sparsit is reduced to facial contortions, gestures at her throat, and finally, tears.
3. Mr. Bounderby calls Mr. Harthouse Mr. Gradgrind’s “precious gentleman-friend.”
4. Mr. Gradgrind asks Mr. Bounderby not to shout.
5. Mr. Bounderby demands an apology from Mrs. Sparsit.
6. Mr. Bounderby advises Mrs. Sparsit to put her feet in a tub of hot water, drink a glass of rum and butter, and go to...
(The entire section is 308 words.)
Book III, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Mr. Bounderby think that, as a “commercial wonder,” he is more admirable than Venus?
2. What sum is offered as reward for the arrest of Stephen Blackpool?
3. Why is the placard describing Blackpool being read aloud?
4. What resolution concerning Stephen Blackpool does Slackbridge propose?
5. What is young Tom doing while Bounderby pursues his investigations?
6. Why does Mrs. Sparsit cry out “It’s a coincidence! It’s a Providence!” when she spots Rachael and Sissy outside of Bounderby’s house?
7. What “pension” has Bounderby supplied his mother with, in return for her silence?
8. Why do Sissy, Rachael, and Mr. Gradgrind think the lifting of suspicions against Mrs. Pegler bodes well for Stephen Blackpool?
9. Why has Tom been “plucked up” by a “forced spirit,” and why does it “thrive” with him?
10. What truly dark imagining do both Sissy and Louisa entertain of Tom?
1. Mr. Bounderby is more admirable than Venus because he arose from the mud (of his poverty) and not, like the goddess, from the sea.
2. The award for the arrest of Stephen Blackpool is 20 pounds.
3. The placard is being read aloud to the workers who cannot read by their fellows who can.
4. Slackbridge proposes in his resolution that “Stephen Blackpool…having...
(The entire section is 348 words.)
Book III, Chapter 6: Questions and Answers
1. Why do Sissy and Rachael, as they walk together in the countryside, avoid mounds of high grass?
2. Why do Sissy and Rachael not wish to look closely at Stephen’s hat?
3. How does Sissy get Rachael to stop screaming?
4. Who holds the watch that tells how long the men have been down the shaft?
5. What can “practiced eyes” tell about the action of the windlass the first time it is brought up?
6. Which of the pitmen is the first to inform the crowd of Stephen’s condition?
7. What has broken Stephen’s fall?
8. Where was Stephen headed to before he fell?
9. What is Stephen’s first utterance after he is delivered from the pit?
10. The litter on which he is being carried seems to Stephen to be moving in what direction?
1. Sissy and Rachael avoid these mounds because of stories that old pits are sometimes hidden under them.
2. The two women fear that the hat may be stained with blood, indicating that Stephen had met with foul play.
3. Sissy keeps repeating “Think of Stephen, think of Stephen” until Rachael calms down.
4. The surgeon announces how long the men have been down the shaft.
5. Mechanically-minded observers would know that the windlass was pulling in such a way as to have only one passenger.
6. The pitman who makes the...
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Book III, Chapter 7: Questions and Answers
1. The title of Chapter 7, “Whelp-Hunting,” refers to whom?
2. What does Gradgrind do as soon as he returns home from seeing Stephen Blackpool at the Old Hell Shaft?
3. What does Gradgrind tell Bounderby it is his duty to do?
4. At the outset of the family conference called by Gradgrind to discuss what to do about his son, what does Louisa say to encourage her father?
5. “Ten thousand pounds could not effect it,” says Gradgrind. What is “it”?
6. Mr. Bounderby’s “bullying vein of public zeal” might lead him to do what?
7. Where has Sleary’s Horse-Riding set up?
8. Who sells the tickets for the circus?
9. Bitzer’s long hard run has had what sort of singular effect on his appearance?
10. How does Mr. Sleary propose to get Tom to Liverpool?
1. The title “Whelp-Hunting” refers to Tom Gradgrind, first dubbed “the whelp” by Harthouse in Book 2, Chapter 2 and often so called by Dickens; “whelp” is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin meaning the young offspring of dogs or meat-eating wild animals such as wolves or lions.
2. Gradgrind sends a message to Mr. Bounderby asking his son to come directly to Stone Lodge.
3. Gradgrind tells his old former ally that he considers it his duty to vindicate Stephen Blackpool’s memory and declare the real thief....
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Book III, Chapters 8-9: Questions and Answers
1. As he is confiding his plans to Sissy, what does Sleary call Bitzer?
2. What does Mr. Gradgrind say is his last chance to soften Bitzer?
3. The reappearance of Merrylegs immediately suggests what to Mr. Sleary?
4. What is it that Sleary says people can’t always be doing?
5. According to Mr. Sleary, a promise from Gradgrind to do what will more than balance his account with the circus?
6. How does Bounderby decide he can get the most glory out of his employment of his housekeeper?
7. What does Mrs. Sparsit ask Mr. Bounderby not to do as he begins to speak to her?
8. Mrs. Sparsit says the portrait of Mr. Bounderby has what advantage over the original?
9. What is the size of Lady Scadgers’ establishment?
10. Louisa will be loved by all children, but by whose in particular?
1. Sleary calls Bitzer a “prethiouth rathcal” (precious rascal).
2. Mr. Gradgrind reminds Bitzer of the education he has received at his school.
3. When he sees Merrylegs, Mr. Sleary is sure that Sissy’s father has died.
4. People, says Sleary, cannot always be made to learn, or always made to work.
5. Mr. Gradgrind will clear his debts to the circus by at some point in the future ordering a “bespeak.”
6. Mr. Bounderby comes to the conclusion that firing Mrs....
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Altick, D. Richard. Victorian People and Ideas: A Companion for the Modern Reader of Victorian Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 1973.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times: A Norton Critical Edition. Edited by George Ford and Sylvere Monod. New York: W.W. Norton, 1966.
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Leavis, F. R. The Great Tradition. London: Chatto and Windus, 1948. Provides an excellent introduction to the idea of class in Dickens’ writing. Compares Dickens as a social critic to twentieth century writers such as D. H. Lawrence.
Miller, J. Hillis. Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958. Explores Dickens’ art in creating such rich worlds of characters and well-realized places. Very useful in its discussion of the themes and setting of Hard Times.
Morris, Pam. Dickens’s Class Consciousness: A Marginal View. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Helpful study of Dickens’ attacks on the British class system. Applies contemporary critical theories to Dickens’ polemical style of social criticism.
Newcomb, Mildred. The Imagined World of Charles Dickens. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989. Informative discussion of the loss of childhood. Very interesting consideration of the role of children in Dickens’ fiction as well as of the British educational system.
Watkins, Gwen. Dickens in Search of Himself: Recurrent Themes and Characters in the Work of Charles Dickens. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1987. Good treatment of Dickens’ interest in children, parenting, and love. Also helpful...
(The entire section is 197 words.)