Hard Times Book III, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers

Charles Dickens

Book III, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
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 been already disowned by the community of Coketown, the same are free from the shame of his misdeeds, and cannot as a class be reproached with his dishonest actions!”

5. Tom moves about with Mr. Bounderby “like his shadow, assisting in all the proceedings.”

6. Mrs. Sparsit knows that Rachael can positively identify the old lady in the coach as the mysterious old woman.

7. Bounderby has supplied his mother with 30 pounds a year.

8. The three think this because the old woman and Stephen had always been mentioned as associates; if she has nothing to do with the robbery, the chances increase that neither did he.

9. Tom has been “plucked up” by the nonappearance of Stephen Blackpool, and it thrives as his absence continues.

10. They suspect the possibility that Tom may have had Stephen “put out of the way” (killed), in order to permanently avert suspicion.