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THE STORY

BOOK THE FIRST

CHAPTER XII

Saddened and discouraged, Stephen heads home. On the way, he's met by an elderly woman, just arrived in town after a long trip. She's seen him leaving Bounderby's house and she asks about that man. How does he look? Is he healthy? The woman is grateful for Stephen's answers. As she walks with him, she tells him she makes the 40-mile trip from her home to Coketown every year just to catch a glimpse of Bounderby.

Stephen is curious about the old woman's interest in Bounderby, but he doesn't inquire. Instead, she asks questions about his life in the factory, assuming that all is well with the workers there. Stephen doesn't shatter her illusions. Later, at his work, Stephen glances out the window to see her staring with admiration at the factory buildings.


NOTE: In addition to the images of the serpent (the smoke) and the elephant (the steam engine), Dickens often refers to the factories as the Fairy Palaces because, from a distance, they look magical when lighted. Obviously the image is heavy with irony, since few places are less magical than the factories.

After work, Stephen wanders sorrowfully in the rain, dreading to go home and face his wife. How, he wonders, can someone as good and kind as Rachael have a fate determined by such a terrible woman as his wife? His thoughts become more fatalistic as he nears home.  

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