Study Guide

Hard Times Book 2, Chapter 6

By Charles Dickens

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Book 2, Chapter 6

Fading Away

  • Stephen leaves Bounderby's house depressed. He runs into Rachael and the old woman who comes to town to look at Bounderby.
  • The old woman wanted to get a look at Bounderby's new wife, but Louisa had not left the house all day. She settles for Stephen's second-hand description.
  • Stephen tells Rachael that he will no longer be working at the factory. Because he will now have a bad reputation with all the factory owners, he needs to leave town in order to find new work.
  • The three go to Stephen's for a cup of tea.
  • The old woman introduces herself as Mrs. Pegler.
  • She tells them about her wonderful (and now dead) husband, and then tells them that she had a son a long time ago, but has "lost him."
  • Mrs. Bounderby is announced, and Mrs. Pegler freaks out at the name and wants to be hidden.
  • Louisa and Tom come in, and Louisa for the first time gets a sense that the workers in Coketown are all individual people, not just a mass of production.
  • She feels bad for Stephen (she knows about the alcoholic wife, also) and offers him some traveling money. He rejects most of it, but takes a little to make her feel better.
  • Rachael reveals that the reason he won't join the union is that he made her a promise to "avoid trouble" and would never go back on his word.
  • Tom takes Stephen aside. He tells him that there might be a job at the bank – and to get it. Stephen should mill about in front of the bank a few nights in a row before he leaves. Stephen is weirded out by this, and by Tom's "breath like a flame of fire" (um, Satan much?), but he agrees.
  • Tom and Louisa leave. Mrs. Pegler leaves. Then Stephen and Rachael say a quick good-bye to each other, all full of love and strangled emotion.
  • Stephen goes to hang out in front of the bank, feeling self-conscious. Nothing happens. The next day, he goes to work, clears out his loom, and does the thing at the bank again.
  • The next morning he leaves town to find work elsewhere.

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