Why does Louisa marry Mr. Bounderby?

In Chapter 15 of Book One, Mr. Gradgrind explains to Louisa that Mr. Bounderby has asked his permission to marry her. She displays very little outward emotion upon hearing this proposal, and although the narrator suggests that she suppresses her true feelings, she eventually agrees to become Mr. Bounderby’s wife. Mr. Gradgrind presents the situation to Louisa in terms of “Facts” about marriage compatibility, and this approach takes advantage of her inability to understand her emotions in order to persuade her to accept the proposal. 

How does Stephen Blackpool die?

As Sissy and Rachael set out to find the missing Stephen Blackpool in Chapter 6 of Book Three, they come across his hat lying in a grassy field and initially believe that someone murdered him. They soon realize, however, that he has fallen into Old Hell Shaft, a deep pit whose darkness makes it almost impossible for them to determine if Stephen is dead or alive. Sissy gathers a group of men who descend into the pit, and they rescue Stephen who is badly injured. After giving a speech about the immorality of treating the working class as dispensable, Stephen gazes at a star, finds peace in his final moments, and dies as a result of his injuries.  

How does Hard Times serve as a critique of 19th century London’s industrialism?

As with many of Dickens’s novels, Hard Times serves as a critique of the social and political environment of 19th-century London. He particularly focuses on highlighting the detrimental aspects of industrialism through characters such as Mr. Bounderby, whose self-made identity is a lie, and Stephen Blackpool, a working-class man whose sincerity is no match for the greed that plagues those around him. The heartless, self-serving attitudes that pervade Coketown ensure that all of its citizens experience “hard times” in one way or another, suggesting that London’s emphasis on capitalism has the ability to destroy an individual’s sense of humanity.