Hard Times Book I, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers

Charles Dickens

Book I, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
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 windows.”

6. The words refer to Blackpool’s power loom. Dickens was aware of the hazards to life and limb presented by such machinery, and his journal, Household Words, ran articles deploring the safety records in England’s factories.

7. Mrs. Sparsit reacts as if she has received a “moral shock.”

8. The old woman has traveled to Coketown from the countryside via the “Parliamentary,” at a penny a mile the cheapest way to travel by train. England’s Parliament had decreed that one such train should run once every day, on all the important lines.

9. Blackpool, as he tells the old woman, has worked in Bounderby’s factory for 12 years; he has worked as a weaver most of his life.

10. Blackpool wants to communicate the news of his wife’s reappearance to Rachael.