Book 1, Chapter 11 Summary

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Last Updated January 12, 2023.

The next day, Stephen bends over his loom at the mill. The narrator reminds readers that the work of God will always triumph over the work of man. Humans will always have more dignity than machines. At noon break, Stephen goes to visit Mr. Bounderby, the mill’s owner. He enters the parlor, where Mr. Bounderby sits with Mrs. Sparsit.

Mr. Bounderby is surprised to see Stephen, for the latter has never caused any trouble and is not “one of the unreasonable ones.” He asks Stephen what he has to say. Stephen wants advice. He explains that he married when he was young and that his wife started drinking and got worse and worse. Stephen tried to be patient, but his wife left him. She reappears now and again, completely disgraced. Stephen has heard that some people have gotten divorced, and he wonders if it is possible for him.

Mr. Bounderby tells Stephen that it is not possible. He has taken his wife for better or worse, and there is no help for it. Divorce is expensive, Mr. Bounderby says, and Stephen can in no way afford it. Stephen laments the muddle he is in, and Mr. Bounderby instructs him not to question his country but to mind his own business and his work. Stephen thanks Mr. Bounderby and leaves.

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