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Hard Times

Charles Dickens

Summary and Analysis Book Three: Chapter 6


In her grief over Stephen's not returning, Rachael turns to Sissy for comfort and companionship. On a Sunday morning more than a week after Stephen's disappearance, she and Sissy are walking in the fields near Coketown. They find Stephen's hat and discover he had fallen into Old Hell Shaft, an abandoned mine shaft. When they summon help, the local villagers mobilize, rig up a windlass and bucket, and rescue him. His body broken and wasted from starvation, Stephen is hoisted from the shaft. He lives long enough to request that Gradgrind clear his name of robbery, thus implicating Tom, Gradgrind's son; to ask Louisa's forgiveness for believing that she had plotted to harm him; and to say that all people should learn to live together with understanding. Stephen dies quietly, his hand in Rachael's and his eyes gazing at the star that had been his source of comfort in his prison. The march back to Coketown is a funeral procession.