Discovering Dickens - A Community Reading Project

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Thou knowest who said, 'Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone at her!'

Rachael's words to Stephen echo John 8:7. In this passage, the scribes and Pharisees bring Jesus a woman who has committed adultery, saying that Mosaic law commands that she be stoned. In the verse Rachael quotes, Jesus responds, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Rachael's words not only demonstrate her own merciful, Christlike qualities, but also underline the hints that Mrs. Blackpool has been unfaithful.

"Thou'rt an Angel; it may be thou hast saved my soul alive!"

Stephen here echoes Ezekiel 18:27: "Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." Dickens's original plan for the chapter included this quotation.

Although Mr. Gradgrind did not take after Blue Beard

In the story of Blue Beard or Bluebeard, a rich man marries and kills six wives. His seventh wife discovers their bodies and is saved when her brothers kill Blue Beard. The story appears in numerous countries, but first became known in England through an eighteenth-century translation of Charles Perrault's Contes du Temps. Allusions to Blue Beard as a tyrannous husband were common in nineteenth-century literature.

until the last trumpet ever to be sounded shall blow even algebra to wreck

Dickens here alludes to the Book of Revelations, in which angels sound trumpets announcing the end of time. In Revelations 11:15, the last trumpet is blown: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."

eating the bread of dependence

This phrase has an analogue in several Biblical phrases from Psalms and Proverbs, such as "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows" (Psalm 127:2); "For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence" (Proverbs 4:17); and "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27).

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