Book the Second is called “The Reaping”, which is another biblical reference going on from “The Sowing”. This comes from Galatians 6:6-18 “As you sow so shall you reap”. The meaning of this is that a persons deeds, whether good or bad will repay them in kind. How a parent “sows” or in other words brings up their child will be shown in how they “reap” or rather how they grow up. The book centres on how the characters grow as individuals are given certain situations to deal with, which is often very sad and emotional given the “hard times” which they experience. Dickens use of emotive language also influences the sorrow within the book.
Stephan Blackpool’s life is full of anguish and sorrow which cries out for sympathy from the reader. He is married to a drunken “monster” of a woman who takes his money and spends it on drugs. He has “no way out” of this relationship without committing a felony and loves a woman named Rachel who, with the use of religious terminology “she looked as if she had a glory shining round her head” and gentle features “delicate”, “irradiated”, “gentle eyes”, seems to be an “angelic” woman. He cannot however marry her as he is already in a marriage which he cannot get out of. In chapter four “Men and Brothers”, Dickens describes the United Aggregate Tribunal, a union at Stephan’s work against Bounderby’s system of long hours and low wages.
They attempt to recruit Stephan but he will not join them as he had swore not to get involved in anything like that to Rachel. Slackbridge refers to him as “Judas” and a traitor who has “deserted his post” and “sold his flag”. Through words he attacks Stephan, accusing him of not wanting to be associated in the “gallant stand for freedom and for right”. Stephan tries to defend himself, saying that the union will likely do them “more harm then good”. He also says that he can’t because of reasons of his own such as the promise he made. Slackbridge is a brutal, belligerent man whereas Stephan is a kind, benevolent man and this can be seen from how they are described.
Slackbridge is almost physical in his retaliation to Stephan’s rejection, “gnashing and tearing”. Stephan has a “worn face” which showed “homely emotions” with “kindness in their nature”. He is then ostracised by his workmen and made to suffer for doing nothing wrong. In chapter five, Bounderby brings Stephan in to question him on this rising mutiny. Stephan says nothing to defend the workers who had soon before abandoned him and for it he gets punished due to Bounderby’s irrational thinking. He says that Stephan is so “waspish” and “ill-conditioned”, that “even his own union will have nothing to do with him”, and therefore Bounderby “will have nothing to do with him either”. Getting fired from his job is the last anguish Stephan suffers in Book the Second and it sends him away from the woman he loves as no other employer will have him is Bounderby will not.
In chapter six, Stephan says his final goodbye to Rachel. This is very sad and empathetic in itself as Rachel always was the happiest part of Stephan’s life. He had a monstrosity of a wife, a cantankerous, arrogant employer and a belligerent ostracizing group of other workers, but none of it was so hard to bare as he had Rachel. He met with her and the old woman straight after he has been dismissed by Bounderby and told her that he must “turn his face on Coketown” and seek a new beginning. Although this is beneficial to him, his initial thought was that it would be “good for her, as it would save her from the change of being brought into question for not withdrawing from him.”
His good natured, benevolent way of thinking makes the scene even sadder as it shows that with all the trouble he’s had in his life, he has never strayed from the morally right side of life. “It would cost him a hard pang to leave her” but he knew he must. That night, Stephan, Rachel and the “old woman” went back to Stephan’s for a drink at which Louisa and Tom turned up. Although Louisa is obviously there to help Stephan, it is obvious that Tom is up to no good.
He tells Stephan to “hang about the bank an hour or so” after hours and make sure the light porter sees him. The devilish description of Tom whose “breath fell like a flame of fire on Stephan’s ear” makes it easy to tell that he is getting Stephan into trouble and this also creates empathy for Stephan as the reader sees this trustworthy man falling into yet another hole which will lead him into problems. When Tom, Louisa and the old lady had left, Stephan walked Rachel home. When they reached her house “they were both afraid to speak” for the sheer sadness they felt at departing. Rachel wishes “rest and peace” for Stephan and Stephan says “Heaven bless thee,” and wishes her the best, bidding goodbye to the last part of happiness in his life. They left each other in a “hurried parting in the common street, yet it was a sacred remembrance to these two common people,” as it was how they had departed on each of their encounters.