Hard Times Book II, Chapters 1-3: Questions and Answers

Charles Dickens

Book II, Chapters 1-3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
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 desert wind).

4. The room Mrs. Sparsit likes at that hour is a managerial boardroom.

5. Mrs. Sparsit likes to think of herself as the Bank Fairy; passersby see her as the Bank Dragon.

6. Bitzer’s excellence as an economist lies in his having consigned his own mother to a workhouse.

7. She is most likely referring either to her employer or to Louisa; to Bounderby, because she senses how unattractive he will seem next to a man like Harthouse; to Louisa, because Mrs. Sparsit assumes she will prove dangerously susceptible to Harthouse’s charms.

8. The “they” referred to are the adherents of Gradgrind’s philosophy.

9. Bounderby assures Harthouse that the smoke from Coke¬town’s chimneys is “the healthiest thing in the world in all respects, and particularly for the lungs.”

10. Bounderby proposes to take Harthouse on a “round of visits to the voting and interesting notabilities of Coketown and its vicinity.”