Study Guide

Hard Times Book 1, Chapter 11

By Charles Dickens

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Book 1, Chapter 11

No Way Out

  • After work the next day, Stephen goes to Bounderby's house, interrupting his boss's lunch. Bounderby compliments Stephen on not being a "Hand" who has never "been unreasonable," and who does not "expect to be set up in a coach and six, and to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon." Bounderby is just a teensy weensy little bit of an exaggerator.
  • Stephen asks Bounderby for advice about his wife – namely, how to get rid of her. She's a hopeless alcoholic. They obviously do not have any kind of relationship, and their only contact is when she blows into town to sell his stuff for booze.
  • Bounderby throws out some lame stuff about marriage being for better or for worse. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sparsit asks whether Stephen and his wife are many years apart from each other (hint, hint, Bounderby – Mrs. Sparsit is really not into your whole Louisa deal).
  • Bounderby finally acknowledges that although the very rich can get Parliament to pass laws allowing them to divorce (meaning, one law per specific couple), the poor are out of luck. Plus, if Stephen were to harm her or abandon her in any way, or if he and Rachael started to live together without getting married, there are laws that would punish him for it.
  • Stephen is even more depressed at this news and says he might as well be dead.
  • At this, Bounderby rips him a new one – kind of out of nowhere – saying that Stephen has clearly been hanging out with the wrong people and needs to straighten up and fly right.

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