Stephen Blackpool Charachter Analysis
Submitted By 2004wj
The character of Stephen Blackpool finds his way into the novel later than most of the other characters, however plays no less significant a role. Stephen lives in a dingy dirty part of Coketown among a group of people referred to as “The Hands”. These people are the lowest part of society are merely the workers who toil day after day to manufacture and perpetuate the products of the industry in Coketown . Stephen is forty years old and is married to a drunk and distressed wife who is constantly drinking away her sorrows from being part of the lower echelon of society as well as wandering in and out of his life. Blackpool dreams of being free of their marriage and re-marrying another character, Rachel, however their love cannot be as for a person in his social status divorce does not come easily. Stephen works in one of Bounderby’s factories as a power loom weaver, and worked long hard hours for meager pay just to sustain himself. Despite all of these misfortunes that he had to endure during his daily life, Blackpool was a man of great faith and integrity. He was a firm Christian and believed that his trials were not in vain, proving so by living that philosophy every day. All of these traits together bring the reader a picture of a poor in money but rich in spirit middle-aged man who works hard for a living and is an overall admirable character in the storyline. The time in which Blackpool lived, the 19th century, was at the heart of the industrial revolution and Stephens’ character in the novel was the backbone of what drove the industrial revolution to such success. “Coketown” is a stereotypical industrial town with all levels of society packed into a small urban industrial space. We se these relationships portrayed in the novel with Stephens interactions with the Gradgrinds and other characters from different social levels and how closely knit their interactions and daily lives are. The interactions that Stephen has with these characters are generally in line with what one would expect from that time period, mostly him being used and abused by the upper classes and floundering in his current living situation. However there are several contradictory situations that are a-typical of the time and show interactions between the different levels of society in a different light than is commonly seen in textbooks. The first situation arises when the other workers in Stephens factory organize a workers union to gain better salary and working conditions, and Stephen refuses to join. Overwhelmingly we would expect to see him jump on this opportunity to better his situation and stand up for his personal rights. However in the spirit of contradiction he opts to simply continue to work in peace and not be bothered with the political issues at stake. This action causes him to be banished from his fellow workers and cast aside. He is later approached by the owner of the factory, Bounderby, and asked to spy on the striking workers. Blackpool however as a man of integrity refuses and is in turn fired from the factory. Cast out by all sides he once again seems to have drawn the short straw in life and falls by the wayside, and proceeds to leave town in hopes of a better life. The second situation that contradicts what would normally be expected of the times is when Blackpool dies on his journey to clear his name from the robbery of the bank. After Tom is discovered to be the culprit, and since Blackwood is dead, Mr. Gradgrind takes it upon himself to clear Blackpools name and indict his own son in the crime. Ones name was of Huge importance to a man in this time and any stain upon that could have enormous repercussions in family, work and social life. This defamation of his own name could have had deep repercussions for Mr. Gradgrind however he felt morally obligated to set things straight and to ensure that Blackpool was not remembered as a crook but rather as the genuine hard working man he was. Overall Stephen Blackpool for most of his life lived the stereotypical life of a lower tier citizen during the industrial revolution, however Dickens’ Hard Times shows that we cannot solely stick to what we read in the textbooks. What we see in this tale reminds us that there was more to this time than machines, buildings, aristocrats and “Hands” but rather lives that were molded and shaped by the historical events occurring all around them.