Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Why does Stephen tell Mr. Bounderby what he thinks?

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Stephen Blackpool’s conversation with Josiah Bounderby follows a disagreement that Stephen had with the union organizers. Although Stephen recognizes the crucial need for reforms in Bounderby’s factory, he is not convinced that the union’s prescribed steps will remedy the situation. Because Slackbridge has provoked the crowd to reject his opinions, Stephen feels alienated from the workers’ cause.

Summoned by Bounderby’s henchman, Bitzer, Stephen visits the owner. Apparently believing that he can coopt Stephen to support this position or even use him to spy on his fellow workers, Bounderby is both surprised and outraged to hear Stephen support the need for reforms. Stephen is not against his comrades, but he believes there are better ways to accomplish their goals of gaining better working conditions. He is concerned about Bounderby’s haste to apply a “strong hand,” or coercive measures, rather than take the grievances seriously and respect the workers. Bounderby fires him.

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