Short Summary Mr. Gradgrind is a man of “facts and calculations. ” He identifies a student, called Girl number twenty, who replies that her name is Sissy Jupe. Gradgrind corrects her that her name is Cecilia regardless of what her father calls her. Jupe’s father is involved in a horse-riding circus and this is not respectable‹in Gradgrind’s opinion. He advises Cecilia to refer to her father as a “farrier” (the person who shoes a horse) or perhaps, a “veterinary surgeon. ” Sissy Jupe is a slow learner, among the group of stragglers who admit that they would dare to carpet a room with representations of flowers because she is “fond” of them.
Sissy is taught that she must not “fancy” and that she is “to be in all things regulated and governed by fact. ” [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Mr. Josiah Bounderby is Mr. Gradgrind’s closest friend, and just like Gradgrind he is a man “perfectly devoid of sentiment. ” Bounderby is very wealthy from his trade as a banker, a merchant and a manufacturer among other things. He has an imposing figure and his entire body is oversized, swelled and overweight. He calls himself a “self-made man” and he always tells his friends (the Gradgrinds, primarily) stories of how he grew up in the most wretched conditions.
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Mrs. Gradgrind has a very emotional temperament and she usually faints whenever Mr. Bounderby tells his horror stories of being born in a ditch or having lived the first ten years of his life as a vagabond. Mr. Gradgrind is at first hesitant but he soon agrees with Bounderby that Cecilia must be removed from the school so that she might not infect the other students with her ideas. He and Bounderby find Sissy and proceed towards the public-house where she lives to deliver the news. Looking through the room, Sissy finds that the trunk is empty and she is suddenly fearful.
The other members of the performing group also live in the public house and they try to explain to Sissy that her father has abandoned her. He has not left out of ill will, but because he thinks that she will have a better life without him as her guardian. It was with this intention that he had her enrolled in Mr. Gradgrind’s school. Mr. Bounderby is morally enraged that a man would actually desert his own daughter. She has no other family in the world. This certainly changes Mr. Gradgrind’s plans‹as he had originally come to the public house with the intention of dismissing Jupe from the school.
Despite Bounderby’s opinion, Gradgrind does not think it is in good taste to abandon Sissy after she has already been abandoned. Gradgrind gives her a choice to make on the spot: either she can stay with the Sleary performing group, remain in Pegasus’s Arms and never return to his school, or she can leave Sleary’s company, live with the Gradgrinds and attend school. If she chooses this option, of course, she is forbidden to have extended contact with the performers‹though they are the only people that she knows.
It is a difficult decision for Sissy to make but at the urging of Josephine Sleary, Sissy chooses to leave Pegasus’s Arms and join the Gradgrinds. The town library was sometimes the source of Gradgrind’s dismay‹when readers opted for literature rather than geometry and drama instead of statistics. This sort of existence has become unbearable for the young Gradgrinds. Tom tells his sister: “I am sick of my life, Loo. I hate it altogether. ” He and Louisa are both sulking in their room and Tom insists that Louisa is the only person in his life who is capable of making him happy.
Everyone else has fallen under the sway of dullness but Louisa has managed to keep a spark of the interesting alive. The story turns to the workers of Coketown, a group of laborers known as “the Hands. ” Among them lived a decent man named Stephen Blackpool. He is forty but he looks much older and has had a hard life. In fact, those who know him have nicknamed him “Old Stephen. ” Stephen has very little as far as intelligence or social graces and he is very simply defined as “good power-loom weaver, and a man of perfect integrity. After his long hours in the factory, once the lights and bells are shut down, he looks for his friend Rachael. On this night, he cannot find her but just when he is convinced that he has missed her, she appears. Rachael is also a laborer, she is thirty-five years old and she is a gentle, caring person. They have been friends for many years and Stephen takes consolation in this. Whenever his life seems unbearable, Stephen knows that Rachael will make him feel better. She repeatedly advises him that when life is as unpleasant as theirs, it is better not to think about it at all.
They walk together towards the part of town where they both live. Here, the houses are extremely small and dirty. Stephen does not even live in a house‹he lives in a small room above a shop. He tries best to keep things as orderly as possible and he is always courteous in regards to the woman who rents the small room to him. It seems that this night is full of bad luck for Stephen. He enters his room and he stumbles against a wretched figure that frightens him. A drunk and disabled woman is in his room and she is apparently someone that he knows. As the chapter ends, she laughs at Stephen scornfully.
She has returned from some part of the past to ruin his life and give him even more to worry about. She passes out in a drunken stupor and Stephen is left to his misery. Mr. Gradgrind prepares to have his serious discussion with Louisa, who insists upon remaining dispassionate throughout the entire encounter. Gradgrind tells his daughter that she is the subject of a marriage proposal‹and Louisa does not respond. Gradgrind expects Louisa to convey some emotion, but she is entirely stoic and reminds Gradgrind that her upbringing has prevented her from knowing what emotions to express. Gradgrind explains that it is Mr.
Bounderby who has made the marriage proposal and Louisa refrains from registering any emotional response. When her father asks her what she intends to do, Louisa turns the question back to him and asks him what he thinks she ought to do. Gradgrind looks at the situation analytically and dismisses the fact of Bounderby being fifty years old. The marriage has little to do with love and is simply a matter of “tangible Fact. ” In the end, the decision is for Louisa to make. But as she does not see that any opportunity will bring her happiness she realizes that it does not matter what she does.
She continually repeats the phrase “what does it matter? ” and this frustrates Mr. Gradgrind. In the end, Louisa is still emotionless and she replies: “I am satisfied to accept his proposal. ” Mr. Gradgrind is very pleased and he kisses his daughter on the forehead. When Mrs. Gradgrind hears the news she is happy but then she works herself into a fit and soon passes out. Sissy Jupe is present and she is, perhaps, the only one who is able to sense the difference in Louisa. Louisa keeps herself at a distance and is “impassive, proud and cold. ” Sissy feels a mixture of wonder, pity and sorrow for Louisa.
Mr. Gradgrind is hiring the stranger, Mr. James Harthouse, as an instructor in his school. He will be one of many who are trained in logic and statistics and eager to help relieve children of their imaginations. James Harthouse is the younger brother of a member of Parliament and as he has become an adult, he has failed to find a vocation or even a steady hobby to fill his hours. After trying several other things, Harthouse decided that he might as well give statistics a try and so he had himself coached and instructed in various philosophies.
Meanwhile, Tom Gradgrind has become quite wayward despite the rigors of his education and he is incredibly hypocritical and disrespectful. He makes no effort to hide his disdain for Mr. Bounderby even as he fascinated by Mr. Harthouse’s flashy clothes and he befriends him for this largely superficial reason. Tom very quickly becomes a pawn of Mr. Harthouse. After a little alcohol and some tobacco, Tom is loose-lipped and uninhibited in his criticism of Mr. Bounderby. At one point, Tom goes as far as to say that he is the only person that Louisa cares about and that it is only for his well-being that she agreed to marry Mr.
Bounderby. Without realizing it, Tom is laying the seeds for a potential affair between Harthouse and his sister. As Harthouse becomes more enrapt with Louisa, Tom offers more and more secrets until he finally falls into a stupor. Stephen Blackpool is in the company of Mr. Bounderby, Louisa, Mr. Harthouse and Tom. Mr. Bounderby intends to make an example of Stephen and present him to Mr. Harthouse as a sort of specimen of the lower classes. Bounderby does not appreciate Stephen’s criticism and on a whim he decides to repay Stephen’s loyalty by accusing him of being disloyal.
He goes as far as to say that Stephen has betrayed both his employer and his fellow employees and he caps his argument off by firing Stephen “for a novelty. ” Mrs. Sparsit watches from her post at the bank and then when the timing is right she hastily makes her way to the country-house and sure enough she finds Louisa and James sitting in a garden together. He confesses his love but Louisa remains resistant. He implores her to at least commit to seeing him but she refuses. He suggests a change of venue and the entire time, Mrs.
Sparsit, hidden behind the shrubs, gloats to herself that the two young people have no idea that they are being watched. Harthouse leaves and Louisa soon follows. Mrs. Sparsit assumes that Louisa has eloped and that they have a planned meeting-place and so she trails Louisa as best as she can. It is raining and Mrs. Sparsit is already dirty and muddy from hiding and crawling through the bush. Sparsit follows Louisa to the train station and thinks that Louisa has hired a coachman to get her to Coketown faster but after a few moments Sparsit sees that she is incorrect.
Louisa has boarded some train. “I have lost her” is Mrs. Sparsit’s exclamation of defeat and frustration. Mrs. Sparsit is still stirring up trouble. All of her running back and forth in the nighttime rain has caused her to get a violent cold but this does not stop her from completing her mission. She went as far as London to find Mr. Bounderby and confront him with the news of Louisa’s conversation in the garden, and her flight from the country house‹presumably, to continue her romantic affair. After giving the news, Mrs. Sparsit collapses in an incredibly theatrical display.
Bounderby brings her back to Coketown and he carries her along with him to Stone Lodge, where he intends to confront Mr. Gradgrind (unaware that Louisa is also at Stone Lodge). Mrs. Sparsit’s story is presented and Mr. Gradgrind confesses that he is already aware of these details and that Louisa has preserved her honor by returning to her father’s house when she did not know how to defend herself from temptation on her own. Mrs. Sparsit is now considered in the worst light for she has cast aspersions and criticized Louisa without due cause. She can do little more than utter an apology and begin crying profusely as she is sent back to town.
Louisa and her father are both convinced that Tom is involved in a bank theft and Louisa correctly suspects that after she left Stephen’s room, Tom made some sort of false offer to Stephen, in her name, encouraging him to loiter outside of the bank. Mr. Gradgrind agrees that Tom has probably done this, knowing that Stephen planned to leave town and would be the most logical suspect. In this moment of despair, again it is Sissy who has orchestrated a plan for deliverance and rescue. She could easily see that Tom was guilty and she sent him to Mr.
Sleary and her old friends who were only a few towns away. Tom said that he had very little money and did not know who could hide him and this was the most reasonable solution as Sissy had read of the circus in the paper just the day before. It is also favorable that the town is only a few hours from the port of Liverpool and Mr. Gradgrind hopes that he might be able to get his son passage on a ship that will send him far away from shame and punishment. About Hard Times Hard Times was originally published in serial form, in a magazine called Household Words beginning on April 1, 1854.
The last time that Dickens had published a work in serial form was in 1841 and when publication of Hard Times had begun, Dickens was barely halfway through the writing. In the end, Hard Times is among the shortest of Dickens’s novels and the material was arranged so that it would “divide well”? prolonging suspense at all of the weekly conclusions. [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Dickens had originally intended to take the year off, having written Bleak House the year previous but he was convinced to write Hard Times in part because the book was to improve the financial ituation of the struggling magazine. The characters and major themes of the novel are little different from many of the others that are more famous. Some critics liken Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby to other “men of business” who populate Dickens’s fiction: Ebenezer Scrooge, Ralph Nickleby and Mr. Dombey chief among them. On another level, Hard Times is considered to be a revision of an earlier novella entitled The Chimes. The characters of Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby are more developed.
While Coketown represents the typical manufacturing town of the English midlands, the Manchester aspects of the town come largely from the similarities between the utilitarianism espoused by Gradgrind and Bounderby and the utilitarianism expounded by the “Manchester” school of thought. Hard Times reveals Dickens’ increased interest in class issues and social commentary. In contrast to the earliest work, like the more “playful” novel, The Pickwick Papers, Hard Times is seen by critics as being more in line with the novels published immediately before it: Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, and Bleak House.
While Hard Times does not have the epic proportions of some of Dickens’s other work, the concern for the plight of the poor and the hypocrisy of the leisure class is more explicit than it had been previously. Character List Bitzer Bitzer is a classmate of Tom, Louisa and Sissy. As a young adult he works as a clerk in Bounderby’s bank and he unsuccessfully apprehends Tom as the thief. Stephen Blackpool Stephen is a poor laborer in one of Josiah Bounderby’s factories. He is married to a drunk woman who wanders in and out of his life. After losing his job at the factory, Stephen is forced to leave Coketown and find work elsewhere.
In his absence, Stephen is accused of committing a crime that he did not actually commit. When returning to Coketown to defend his honor, Stephen falls into a pit and injures himself. He is rescued but he eventually dies. Mr. Josiah Bounderby Mr. Bounderby is one of the central characters of the novel. He is a business acquaintance of Mr. Thomas Gradgrind. He employs many of the characters in the novel and he is very wealthy. He marries Louisa Gradgrind (several decades his junior) and the marriage eventually ends unhappily. In the tumult of a bank robbery investigation, Bounderby’s true identity is revealed much to his shame.
Throughout the novel, Bounderby is an emblem of hypocrisy. Louisa Gradgrind/Louisa Bounderby Louisa is one of the central characters of the novel. She is the eldest of the Gradgrind children and the prize pupil of the educational system. When she grows older, her father arranges her marriage to Mr. Bounderby. Throughout her life, Louisa is very unfulfilled because she has been forced to deny her emotions. She has an emotional breakdown after being tempted into infidelity by Mr. Harthouse. Her marriage with Mr. Bounderby is soon dissolved and she never remarries. pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Mr. Thomas Gradgrind Mr. Gradgrind is the intellectual founder of the Gradgrind educational system and he is also a member of Parliament. He represents the rigor of “hard facts” and statistics. It is only after Louisa’s emotional breakdown that he has a change of heart and becomes more intellectually accepting of enterprises that are not exclusively dedicated to profit and fact. Mrs. Gradgrind Mrs. Gradgrind is the ignorant wife of Thomas Gradgrind and the mother of Louisa, Tom and the other Gradgrind children. She dies in the middle of the novel.
Jane and Adam Smith Gradgrind The younger children of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind. They are better off than Tom and Louisa because Sissy Jupe has assisted in their upbringing. Tom Gradgrind Tom is also referred to as “the whelp. ” He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind and an employee of Mr. Bounderby. He is resentful towards his sister, Louisa, though she is only kind towards him. His ultimate misdeed comes when he steals money from his safe in the bank and then announces the loss as a true theft. In the end, Tom is forced to flee the country to escape punishment.
He dies overseas and full of regret. James “Jem” Harthouse The younger brother of a member of Parliament, Harthouse has agreed to spend some time teaching in the Gradgrind’s school. He is lazy and immodest and finds himself tempting Louisa with offers of romance. Cecilia “Sissy” Jupe Sissy is abandoned by her father who is a well-meaning circus performer. He feels that she will have a better life if he is not able to hinder her progress in society. Sissy lives with the Gradgrind family but she is a poor pupil at their school. In contrast to Mr.
Gradgrind, Sissy lives by the philosophy of emotion, fancy, hope and benevolence. In the end, her kindhearted nature softens the rough edges of the Gradgrind family and they come to be grateful for what she has done for them. At the end of the novel, Dickens writes that Sissy grows ever more happy and she eventually has children of her own to care for. Signor Jupe The horse-trainer/circus-performer who is the father of Cecilia. He sends her on an errand to “fetch the nine oils” as an ointment for his aching muscles. When she returns to their lodging, he is gone. Mrs. Pegler/”The mysterious old woman”
Mrs. Pegler is the old woman who makes a yearly pilgrimage to Coketown. At the end of the novel, she is discovered to be the mother of Mr. Josiah Bounderby. Rachael The unmarried companion of Stephen Blackpool. She keeps his spirits up while he is suffering and after he has left Coketown, she takes it as her responsibility to defend his honor. Slackbridge The dishonorable and deceitful leader of the labor movement: The United Aggregate Tribunal. Slackbridge takes the legitimate concerns of the laborers and exploits them for his own power. Mr. Sleary Is the manager of a traveling circus.
After providing for Sissy at the beginning of the novel he assists Tom’s escape at the novel’s end. Mrs. Sparsit Mrs. Sparsit is a widow who has fallen on hard times. She is retained in Mr. Bounderby’s service until her snooping gets her fired. Major Themes Surveillance and Knowledge One of Dickens’s major themes centers on the idea of surveillance and knowledge. As is the case in other novels by the author, there are characters who spend time keeping secrets and hiding their history and there is another set of characters who devote themselves to researching, analyzing and listening in on the lives of others.
Mrs. Sparsit and Mr. Gradgrind are both masters of surveillance but Sparsit is more gossipy while Gradgrind is more scientific. Another operator to consider is James Harthouse who devotes himself to the task of understanding and “knowing” Louisa. From all three of these characters we get the idea that knowledge of another person is a form of mastery and power over them. Besides Louisa, Josiah Bounderby is another victim of surveillance. Without knowing what she has done, Mrs. Sparsit manages to uncover the secret of Bounderby’s upbringing and his foul lies about being a self-made man. Fancy” vs. “Fact” The opposition between “fancy” and “fact” is illustrated from the earliest pages of the novel. Clearly, the Gradgrind school opposes fancy, imaginative literature and “wondering. ” Instead, they encourage the pursuit of “hard fact” and statistics through scientific investigation and logical deduction. But the Gradgrinds are so merciless and thorough in their education that they manage to kill the souls of their pupils. Sissy Jupe and the members of Sleary’s circus company stand as a contrast, arguing that “the people must be amused. Life cannot be exclusively devoted to labor. Fidelity The theme of fidelity touches upon the conflicts of personal interest, honesty and loyalty that occur throughout the novel. Certainly, characters like Josiah Bounderby and James Harthouse seem to be regularly dishonest while Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe hold fast to their obligations and beliefs. In Louisa’s case, her fidelity is exemplified in her refusal to violate her marital vows despite her displeasure with her husband.
Sissy’s exemplifies fidelity in her devotion to the Gradgrind family and perhaps even more remarkably, in her steadfast belief that her father is going to return for her seeking “the nine oils” that she has preserved for him. [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Escape The theme of escape really underscores the difference between the lives of the wealthy and the lives of the poor. In Stephen Blackpool, we find a decent man who seeks to escape from his failed marriage but he cannot even escape into his dreams for peace. On the other hand, we find Tom Gradgrind who indulges in gambling, alcohol and smoking as “escapes” from his humdrum existence.
And after he commits a crime, his father helps him to escape through Liverpool. Again, Louisa Gradgrind desires a similar escape from the grind of the Gradgrind system, though she resorts to imagined pictures in the fire rather than a life of petty crime. Finally, “Jem” Harthouse rounds out the options available to the nobility. With all of his life dedicated to leisure, even his work assignment is a sort of past-time from which he easily escapes when the situation has lost its luster. Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 1-5 Book the First: SOWING Chapter One: The One Thing Needful
The novel begins with a short introduction. Inside a classroom, “the speaker” repeats the exclamation “Now, what I want is, Facts. ” He presents the argument that the formation of a child’s mind must be rooted in the study of fact. The schoolroom is as hard and plain as the teacher’s teaching style. All of the children are focused on him. Besides “the speaker” there is also “the schoolmaster and the third grown person” who stand before the pupils. [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]Analysis: This chapter has little narrative content (only three paragraphs), but its imagery is intense.
From the very beginning, Dickens establishes himself within a contemporary debate on the nature of learning, knowledge and education. The description of the classroom is definitely satire, a critique of utilitarianism, and similar philosophies that suggested the absolute reliance upon calculations and facts in opposition to emotion, artistic inspiration and leisure. The novel is divided into three “books” entitled Sowing, Reaping and Garnering. This agricultural motif is introduced by the “sowing” of facts as “seeds” into the fertile minds of the young boys and girls. The one thing needful” is the seed of “fact” and even though the insistence upon “hard facts” seems infertile and unyielding, the motif of sowing makes the classroom a literal kindergarten. To be more precise, the imagery of “sowing” and horticulture varies from the children as the planted field and the children as plants themselves. At one point, “the Speaker” charges the instructor to “plantSand root out” in order to form the children’s minds. Later, the children are described as “little vessels then and there arranged in order,” not unlike the wisps of hair on the side of the Speaker’s head, humorously described as “a plantation of firs. The sum of Dickens’ imagery contrasts the words of gardening and horticulture with the actual scene depicted: “plain, bare, monotonousSinflexible, dry and dictatorial. ” Dickens means to say that there is no true sowing taking place in the “vault of a schoolroom. ” Against the archetype of youth (spring, sowing, fertility), the older men are “square;” eyes are described as having “found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. Dickens’ hyperbole makes architecture out of the physical description of The Speaker (who seems rather villain-like). Dickens wants to demonstrate that the idea of the child’s mind as a “vessel” that is “ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured”‹this creates adults whose brains are described as mere “cellarage”‹space for facts. While Dickens de-personifies the Speaker (he is more of an object and a symbol than an actual person), various objects in the schoolroom, in particular the Speaker’s clothing, take on personality and activity of their own.
The Speaker’s tie is “trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp. ” The Speaker has trained the tie to be as unaccommodating as this school system. The sum of Dickens’ images, from sowing to strangulation, should clearly foreshadow the “hard times” that are ahead. The two important allusions to note are both Biblical ones: the use of the word “sowing” does not only correspond to the old proverb “you reap what you sow” but it has a particular resonance with Dickens’ largely Protestant English audience.
While the Bible makes arguments for diligent “sowing” in practical and spiritual matters, Dickens’ inevitable argument is a defense for leisure‹against the constant diligence, the dependence upon hard facts and the unaccommodating grasp that are later re-cast as the “Protestant Work Ethic” by Max Weber, a philosopher. The second Biblical allusion is along the same lines: one of the New Testament parables makes mention of good Christians as “vessels” who are to be “filled” by God, much as the “dictatorial” Speaker has an “inclined plane of little vessels” that he will fill with his “imperial gallons. Here, the Speaker’s imagery and intentions seem so superhuman and yet, misanthropic (anti-human) that he becomes not a parallel but a foil of the Christian messiah (another educator) to whom Dickens alludes. The speaker demands power without the benevolence, patience or sacrifice that is expected of the role. The speaker is instructing the schoolteacher on how to instruct and this adds to the irony and deliberate confusion of the short scene. The Speaker’s anonymity, the power of his voice, and his pointed “square forefinger” all combine as a symbol of a man with God-like authority.
No one teaches the children, but the Speaker plays schoolteacher to the schoolteacher; and he is the only one who speaks. There is no dialogue in the chapter, only the Speaker’s reiterations and the bystanders’ silent assent. The role of power in education is a theme that is treated throughout the novel, and the balance between leisure and diligence is definitely dependent upon the methods of force and power demonstrated. Later chapters will expand upon another theme that is only foreshadowed here: the wrestle between Romanticism and Utilitarianism.
While Utilitarianism focuses on hard facts and calculations, Romanticism is more spiritual, tends towards the artistic and the poetic and makes aesthetic valuations that Utilitarianism finds irrelevant. Dickens does not wholly endorse the Romantic point-of-view, but with his (artistic) livelihood potentially at stake, he does use a number of rhetorical devices to defeat the principles of Utilitarianism. After all, who could read novels, if they were only after “hard facts? ” As for rhetoric, Dickens’ use of absolutes and hyperbole must be remembered; he arguments he puts into the mouths of the Utilitarian philosophers are characteristic but they are exaggerated. The brilliance of Dickens’ caricatures‹as seen in his other novels, especially Our Mutual Friend‹is in itself an argument against “hard facts” for his skewed depictions of skewed power-relationships offer the truth at the heart of the matter, if not the “hard fact. ” This first chapter is prefatory, and in the second, Dickens introduces the names of the characters and their town as a further element of caricature. A final point to be noted concerns the nature of Dickens’ narrative structure.
One interesting dynamic the reader must bear in mind comes from the fact that Dickens’ work was originally serialized‹each of these short chapters came as an installment in a magazine. Dickens stays close to the classical trilogy/tripartite structures by dividing the work into three books that have an inherent narrative: after sowing comes reaping, after reaping comes garnering (though one can often reap and sow and leave it at that). The reader can compare the larger three-part structure with the smaller chapter-to-chapter structure.
While we know that Reaping follows Sowing, Chapter One (“The One Thing Needful”) is not so continuous with Chapter Two (“Murdering the Innocents”). As the novel progresses, Dickens will not need to bring in new characters as often as he will in the first chapters; additionally, the chapters become more coherent and continuous as the novel gets closer to its end. The number of installments Dickens was to write had already predetermined the length of the novel! As we see in Chapter One, Dickens uses tactics of suspense: withheld information (what is the geographical setting? ; foreshadowed doom (“unaccommodating grasp”); unnamed anonymous figures (“the speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person”) and a cliffhanger at the conclusion (literally: “the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, readyS”). Dickens must use suspense so that his reader will buy the next serial. Chapter Two: Murdering the Innocents Chapter Two begins with the introduction of Thomas Gradgrind, “a man of realitiesSfacts and calculations. ” He always introduces himself as Mr. Gradgrind and spends his time in constant cogitation.
He is the Speaker, previously unnamed and he now takes it as his duty to educate the children (“little pitchers before him”). He identifies a student, called Girl number twenty, who replies that her name is Sissy Jupe. Gradgrind corrects her that her name is Cecilia regardless of what her father calls her. Jupe’s father is involved in a horse-riding circus and this is not respectable‹in Gradgrind’s opinion. He advises Cecilia to refer to her father as a “farrier” (the person who shoes a horse) or perhaps, a “veterinary surgeon. ” The lesson continues with Gradgrind’s command: “Give me your definition of a horse. While Girl number twenty knows what a horse is, she is unable to define one. Another child in the class, a boy called Bitzer, easily defines the animal by means of biological classifications (quadruped, graminivorous, etc. ). After this, the third gentleman steps forward. He is a government officer as well as a famous boxer and he is known for his alert belligerence. His job is to remove “fancy” and “imagination” from the minds of the children. They learn that it is nonsense to decorate a room with representations of horses because horses do not walk up and down the sides of rooms in reality.
Sissy Jupe is a slow learner, among the group of stragglers who admit that they would dare to carpet a room with representations of flowers because she is “fond” of them. Sissy is taught that she must not “fancy” and that she is “to be in all things regulated and governed by fact. ” After the gentleman finishes his speech, the schoolteacher, Mr. M’Choakumchild, begins his instruction. He has been trained in a schoolteacher-factory and has been conditioned to be dry, inflexible and uninspiring‹but full of hard facts.
His primary job in these preparatory lessons is to find “Fancy” in the minds of the children and eradicate it. Analysis: “Murdering the Innocents” replaces the suspense of the previous chapter by establishing names and identities for the previously anonymous social roles that were presented earlier. As is to be expected from Dickens, the names of the characters are emblematic of their personality; usually, Dickens’ characters can be described as innocent, villainous or unaware of the moral dilemmas of the story that surrounds them.
The characters’ names are almost always an immediate indication of where the character fits on Dickens’ moral spectrum. Thomas Gradgrind, “a man of realities” is a hard educator who grinds his students through a factory-like process, hoping to produce graduates (grads). Additionally, Gradgrind is a “doubting Thomas”‹much like the Biblical apostle who resisted belief in the resurrection, this Thomas urges that students depend exclusively upon the evidence in sight. He dismisses faith, fancy, belief, emotion and trust at once. Mr.
M’Choakumchild is plainly villainous and he resembles the sort of fantastic ogres he’d prefer students took no stock in. Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe is unlike the other characters in almost every possible way. While there are other female students, she is the only female identified thus far in the novel. Unlike the boy “Bitzer” (who has the name of a horse), Sissy has a nickname and at least in this chapter, she is the lone embodiment of “fancy” at the same time that she is the single female presented as a contrast to the row of hardened mathematical men. Her character is, of course, a romanticized figure.
Despite the political critique of Dickens’ simplification and over-idealization of females and children (and girls, especially), Cecilia’s character does have some depth that allows her development later in the novel. Her last name, “Jupe,” comes from the French word for “skirts” and her first name, Cecilia, represents the sainted patroness of music. Especially as she is a member of a traveling circus, we can expect Cecilia to represent “Art” and “Fancy” in contrast to M’Choakumchild, one of 141 schoolmasters who “had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. “
Besides the allusion to St. Cecilia, Dickens alludes to Morgiana, a character in the classic story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”‹one of the Arabian Nights tales. The reader should always note the irony in Dickens’ allusions: while Dickens’ characters argue against fanciful literature, Dickens’ is relying upon it to compose his story. In this case, Dickens’ simile presents M’Choakumchild’s search for “the robber Fancy” in terms of Morgiana’s searching for (and hiding of) the thieves in “Ali Baba. ” The metaphor of the children as eager “vessels” is made explicit when the “vessels” before M’Choakumchild become the “jars” before Morgiana.
And the motif of robbers and villains is finalized when we remember that Ali Baba and the forty thieves were more hero than criminal. M’Choakumchild is labeled “gentleman” but his intention to seek and destroy “the robber Fancy lurking within” makes “the robber Fancy” (childish imagination) a more noble personification. Instead, the teachers are the ones who seem criminal. The most important allusion of the chapter is the title: “Murdering the Innocents. ” The reader should expect Dickens work to be full of Biblical and Christian allusions as he is writing to a largely sentimental popular audience.
While the reference may be more inaccessible, erudite or unrecognizable for modern young readers, Dickens’ 1854 British audience immediately saw the reference to King Herod. Soon after the birth of Christ, Herod fears for his throne and has all of the male babies in Bethlehem executed (in the hopes of murdering the Christ child). In literary circles, the phrase “murder of the innocents” is exclusively used to describe this Biblical story. While the students are not literally danger (M’Choakumchild), their childish imagination has been targeted for annihilation.
This completes the archetype of youth vs. age, and foreshadows that whoever is being targeted and singled out (Cecilia Jupe and her imagination) will ultimately escape this tyrant, but other innocents will be less fortunate (Bitzer). But we might expect as much from the same author who had written A Christmas Carol a decade before. The major theme of the chapter can be easily inferred from Dickens’ description of Cecilia in the classroom. The “horses” and carpeted “flowers” are all double symbols of her femininity and youth, but most important, Cecilia represents Art in opposition to mechanization.
Dickens is not arguing against education, science or progress. He is arguing against a mode of factory-style, mind-numbing, grad-grinding production that takes the fun out of life. But even worse than the loss of “fun” or “leisure,” Dickens is arguing that art requires an inquisitive and desiring mind. Especially as Dickens is known to have read and enjoyed Arabian Nights in his youth, we can see a bit of autobiography in his tender treatment of Cecilia‹perhaps if he had come under a Mr. M’Choakumchild, he would have proved incapable of becoming an artist. Chapter Three: A Loophole Mr.
Gradgrind is walking home from school and he is thinking about his students and his children‹who are also under his tutelage. He considers them to be models, for he has trained them since birth, and they have attended many lectures. He is quite confident in them, for they study all of the most important subjects and their academic knowledge is well-rounded. Their earliest memories are of the chalkboard and they have learned plenty of statistics, though they know nothing of children’s literature, of art or poetry or “silly” songs. Mr. Gradgrind forbids “wonder” and encourages classification and dissection, the exposition of fact.
Gradgrind’s home is called Stone Lodge and he moved here after working in “the wholesale hardware trade. ” The house is short distance outside of “a great town” called Coketown and Mr. Gradgrind’s current occupation is his intention of running for a seat in Parliament. The house is perfectly balanced, proportioned and calculated. The lawn and the gardens are all perfectly even. Gradgrind is thinking about all of these things as he walks home and he is close to his conclusion that everything is right in his world and everyone is behaving as they ought.
But in this moment his “ears were invaded by the sound of music. ” A group flying the flag of “Sleary’s Horse-riding” has attracted a small crowd with such acts and exhibitions as the “graceful equestrian Tyrolean Flower-Act,” the “highly trained performing dog Merrylegs” and other fanciful amusements. Gradgrind disregards the rabble and continues home, only when he looks to the rear of the circus booth, he sees a number of children peeping to see what is inside. Of course, Gradgrind heads over, intending to remove whichever students are in affiliation with his school.
Much to his surprise, he finds his two children‹”his own metallurgical Louisa” and “his own mathematical Thomas” struggling to catch a glimpse of what is happening inside. Gradgrind startles them both and orders them home. Louisa is more bold in her anger; she is older than her brother but her extra years of schooling have made her more resentful than docile. In fact, Louisa has asked her brother to come along with her to the amusement. Gradgrind is embarrassed, arguing that the two children are debasing themselves but Louisa merely replies that she is “tired” and has been “tired for a long time. Dickens ends the chapter with Mr. Gradgrind’s final exclamation and his own commentary: “What would Mr. Bounderby say! “‹as if Mr. Bounderby had been Mrs. Grundy. Analysis: We neither know Mr. Bounderby nor Mrs. Grundy (yet another of Dickens’ cliffhangers), but from Mr. Gradgrind’s statement we can infer that they are similarly boring and uninspiring adults with a heavy-handed disciplinary air about them. As the novel progresses, the narrative structure will rely more and more upon cliffhangers and the sometimes-abrupt introduction and disappearance of characters.
The second chapter, “Murdering the Innocents,” foreshadows this chapter, “A Loophole. ” Just as the theological commentary on Herod’s Bethlehem massacre (allusion from Chapter 2) focuses on the escape of the Christ child in the midst of the mass murder, the “Loophole” now offers escape from the “Murdering. ” And just as this chapter ends with the cliffhanger (Who is Mr. Bounderby? ), the next chapter, entitled “Mr. Bounderby” answers that very question. The question of location is answered however: Coketown, is the setting of the novel and it is an explicit critique of the social politics, corruption and depression of
Manchester, England, a heavily industrialized city. The new characters include “metallurgical Louisa” and “mathematical Thomas” and by now, the reader should notice the combined force of rhyme, consonance and alliteration in the character’s names and descriptions of places. This stylistic point is worth dwelling on because usually these three devices‹especially when used in concert‹tend towards more lyrical language and more beautiful images. This is not necessarily the case in Dickens because he simply strips these literary rules to their basic meaning.
A rhyme does not have to be fanciful, it only has to hint at a common trait. For example: Coke in Coketown rhymes with Choak in M’Choakumchild. Consonance describes the agreement of sounds (not necessarily a rhyme, but more often alliteration, or a combination of both). These are sounds that sound nice together, they repeat without perfectly rhyming, and while they sound nice together they are not necessarily nice sounding words. For example: Bounderby and Grundy share consonant endings by and dy, as well as the nd sound in the middle.
They are consonant but they do not perfectly rhyme. M’Choakumchild is depicted as a “dry Ogre chalking ghastly white figures” on the black board (ch-). Alliteration, the repetition of letters (and as a result, sounds), is a final device we can use to group characters together. Ogre, Gradgrind, Grundy, Bounderby. Sissy/Cecilia Jupe, Signor Jupe, Josephine Sleary, Merrylegs. “Metallurgical Louisa,” Mathematical Thomas” In some words and descriptors, we find unpleasant images that receive the benefit of alliterated sounds: mathematical Thomas and metallurgical Louisa an be viewed as pupils who have received the same rhyming (ical) educational treatment‹but in truth, Louisa and Thomas will prove very different. Dickens takes these devices to the extreme in this chapter and while these rules prove true throughout the novel, the occasional exception or coincidental rhyme can pop up. All of the names mentioned above however, are sustained in the work. Bounderby later becomes metallic, Gradgrind establishes boundaries, etc.
Dickens’ caricatures are visual (he drew illustrations for the original editions) but they rely upon the repetition of repetition, over and over again, much like the factories. Dickens takes another motif from children’s literature and explicitly names the teacher as an “ogre” who is “taking childhood captive, and dragging it into gloomy statistical dens by the hair. ” The loophole is a symbol of escape‹both mentally and physically. The symbol of contrast to the loophole is Stone Lodge, the home of Gradgrind, and most definitely a “statistical den. Dickens simile presents the gardens “like a botanical account-book” and this sustains the underlying comparison between the statistical, grid-iron classifications (mathematical, metallurgical) and the freedom that one expects from nature. The children’s “dissection” of the “Great Bear” constellation is a metaphor for the murder of fancy and mythology. We recall the “horse” vs. “Quadruped. Graminivorous. ” debate and this is sustained in the images of animal “celebrities” from nursery rhymes‹figures who are unfamiliar for young Louisa and Thomas.
Thematically, there have been several “loopholes” in the Gradgrind training. There is the loophole as peephole, which is a symbol that foreshadows a continued defiance (at least on Louisa’s part); there is also the loophole of contradiction where astronomy permits the “Great Bear” but the real dog “Merrylegs” and the painted representation of “horses dancing sideways” on a wall are forbidden. Mr. Gradgrind’s blind face prevents him from enjoying fancy but it also prevents him from seeing the contradictions in his thought and the loopholes through which his model children might escape.
Chapter Four: Mr. Bounderby Mr. Josiah Bounderby is Mr. Gradgrind’s closest friend, and just like Gradgrind he is a man “perfectly devoid of sentiment. ” Bounderby is very wealthy from his trade as a banker, a merchant and a manufacturer among other things. He has an imposing figure and his entire body is oversized, swelled and overweight. He calls himself a “self-made man” and he always tells his friends (the Gradgrinds, primarily) stories of how he grew up in the most wretched conditions. Mrs. Gradgrind has a very emotional temperament and she usually faints whenever Mr.
Bounderby tells his horror stories of being born in a ditch or having lived the first ten years of his life as a vagabond. Bounderby continues to tell his stories, pacing in the formal drawing-room of Stone Lodge. Bounderby is proud of self-made status, having risen to the ranks of the Gradgrinds without the “advantages” of education. Instead of attending school, Bounderby inevitably ran away from his grandmother, who would steal his shoes and sell them for alcohol, his mother having abandoned him soon after birth.
He describes the periods of his life as follows: “Vagabond, errand-boy, vagabond, labourer, porter, clerk, chief manager, small partner, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. ” He taught himself to read by looking at the outsides and signs of buildings. Mr. Gradgrind informs his friend Bounderby that Louisa and Thomas were caught spying at a circus and Mrs. Gradgrind replies “I should as soon have expected to find my children reading poetry. ” Louisa and Thomas are present and the three adults express their disappointment.
Bounderby makes it clear that the circus is composed of the very vagabonds that Louisa and Thomas should be grateful for having avoided. For his part, Bounderby adds that the circus is a “cursed bad thing for a girl like Louisa,” subsequently apologizing for his profanity, but to his credit, he did not have a “refined growing up. ” Mr. Gradgrind is intent upon understanding what might have motivated Louisa and Thomas to stray from their rules and standards. Bounderby brings Cecilia Jupe (one of the “strollers’ children”) to Gradgrind’s attention and he convinces im that Cecilia must be the factor influencing the Gradgrind children. Mr. Gradgrind is at first hesitant but he soon agrees with Bounderby that Cecilia must be removed from the school so that she might not infect the other students with her ideas. The chapter ends with Gradgrind and Bounderby’s immediate venture into Coketown to confront “Signor Jupe” and remove Sissy from school. Analysis: Josiah Bounderby dominates the chapter, much as his physical figure dominates those surrounding him. At least at this point in the novel, it is unclear how exactly he became a “self-made” man and arrived at his fortunes.
Bounderby is a man of social mobility and ever expanding boundaries, but Dickens’ social commentary suggests that Bounderby is hypocritical: even as he complains that he had to crawl out of poverty without aid, he is the firmest advocate of Sissy Jupe’s dismissal from the school. Other characters that are introduced in this chapter are Mrs. Gradgrind, an unintelligent hypochondriac. Three younger children, Jane, Adam Smith and Malthus are briefly depicted. They are relevant as references to economists: Adam Smith is considered the father of laissez-faire (capitalist) economics and his theories encourage hard work and competition.
Thomas Malthus is a less famous and more depressing thinker whose primary economic argument explained the inevitability and desirability of a certain level of poverty‹as a means of avoiding overpopulation. Smith and Malthus are both symbols of the economic mode of production that has overrun Coketown. Bounderby’s self-presentation is pure hyperbole. While he may have been very poor once and certainly is now very rich, his overbearing stories sound very much like the “art” and “fancy” to which he is nominally opposed. As in a classic fairy-tale, he has a wicked grandmother who mistreats him.
And there is a Shakespearean allusion in Bounderby’s explanation of his birth (“SI was born in a ditchS As wet as a sop. A foot of water in itS. nobody would touch me with a pair of tongs. “) Despite Bounderby’s lack of a proper education, his lines are a paraphrase of very famous lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act I) where witches boil a stew that includes a “finger of birth-strangled babe/Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,/Make the gruel thick and slabS” Ditch-born babies generally have bad luck, but Bounderby has somehow overcome his.
And it is strongly suggested that the images of vagabonds and circuses are the avenues towards idleness, and after idleness comes poverty. The focus on money and industry produces a motif of metals and minerals. Just as Coketown is named for “coke”‹the coal-like fuel of the industrial furnaces, we have seen “metallurgical Louisa” and now Bounderby is described as having a “metallic laugh,” Mrs.
Bounderby is described as not being an “alloy” because she is unintelligent, and Jane had fallen asleep “after manufacturing a good deal of moist pipe-clay on her face with slate-pencil and tears. ” Bounderby’s “cavernous eyes” are a symbol of the deep, dark secrets hiding (cave-like) in his past; but his resemblance with Gradgrind reminds the reader that Bounderby and Gradgrind are constantly operating surveillance‹there is a juxtaposition in the adults’ spying on the children as they peep at the public circus, and this awkward relationship reveals how much power the adults have.
When Bounderby greets Louisa with a goodbye kiss, she rubs this spot of her face incessantly and her proposal to cut that hole out of her face altogether hovers between metonymy and metaphor‹Louisa is increasingly desperate to remove herself from her present situation and Bounderby’s advanced age only intensifies her anguish and foreshadows Bounderby’s convoluted and confused desires for Louisa. The theme of education and self-improvement is rather well-developed in this chapter. We find the hypocrisy of the self-made man who would bar Sissy Jupe from school; another irony is in Bounderby’s repeated admission of being low-class.
After he uses the phrase “cursed bad thing,” Bounderby continues: “I should ask Mrs. Gradgrind’s pardon for strong expressions, but that she knows very well I am not a refined character. Whoever expects refinement in me will be disappointed. I hadn’t a refined bringing up. ” The understatement here is that Bounderby should ask for pardon but he does not because he is merely behaving as ought to be expected. It is interesting that Bounderby is not a target for education and that despite his lack of education he is somehow acceptable (this is because he is rich).
On the other hand, how necessary is an educational system so heavily dependent on the “Protestant Work Ethic” when its model pupils are wayward and those who most need conversion (Cecilia Jupe) are mildly persecuted? Louisa’s languished looks out of the window and the description of two other children “out at lecture in custody,” complete our understanding of the educational environment as an ogre’s prison-cave. Chapter Five: The Key-Note In this short chapter, Mr. Bounderby and Mr. Gradgrind proceed towards Coketown, a town which is a “triumph of fact. ” It is mostly made of red brick and it is heavily industrialized.
Smoke hangs in the air, the water is polluted with “ill-smelling dye” and pistons and steam-engines cause the windows of the buildings to rattle all day long. The streets are monotonous and the people are hardly different from one another, each performing pretty much the same job in the same factory, and the work that they do is little different from one day to the next. The only things to be seen in Coketown were “severely workful. ” There were eighteen chapels in the town, representing eighteen religious persuasions but the workers were not among these congregations.
The churches are little different in appearance from the jail, the infirmary and the town-hall. Every building is a testament to “fact. ” There is an organization in Coketown composed to deal with the irreligious nature of the laboring classes and they often petition Parliament for acts that would “make these people religious by main force. ” Besides this truancy, alcoholism and opium were other vices rampant in Coketown. Plenty of specimen testified that had it not been for the drink they “would have been a tip-top moral specimen. ” As they pass through Coketown, Messrs.
Bounderby and Gradgrind consider the town residents to be a “bad lot” who are ungrateful, demanding, excessive in tastes and diet, languid in work ethic. The actual picture is not so simple as a town full of vice. Dickens suggests that the residents of Coketown were simply in need of good humor and some sort of diversion after the endless misery of their occupations. Bounderby and Gradgrind are looking for an address called Pod’s End and as they continue along their path, they run into Girl number twenty, who is being chased by Bitzer.
Bitzer accuses the girl of being a horse-rider and a liar as well. Bounderby sees this as evidence of her contagious spread. Sissy Jupe leads the two gentleman to the decrepit place where she lives. They see here carrying a bottle and question if it is gin, but she replies that it is “the nine oils” that her father has requested as an ointment because he is sore from his performances. Sissy tries to be as polite as possible and just before entering the “public house” she warns the two gentlemen not to fear barking that they may hear as it is only the small dog, called Merrylegs. Analysis:
This chapter is a narrative interlude that spaces out the dramatic action at hand. In striking the “key-note,” Dickens takes note of the physical setting and spends time describing Coketown more than he had previously done. The overriding archetype is hell: Hell is seen in the darkened canal that is an allusion to the River Styx. The coiled serpents are another symbol of sin and immorality. The images of the savage painted faces parallel the image of the dyed water. And the elephant is an odd juxtaposition of mechanics and nature: little surprise that he represents a “melancholy madness. One of Dickens’ primary rhetorical devices here is his exhortation to the reader, that they might reject the hasty condemnations made by the likes of Messrs. Gradgrind and Bounderby. From Dickens’ legal background we might suggest that he is presenting the case for the people of Coketown, left without adequate legal or popular counsel. Here, a Latin term “amicus curiae” (“friend of the court”) would be the most precise way to describe Dickens’ moralizing tone in this short chapter.
Dickens was not alone in arguing that the conditions of workers in cities like Coketown (or rather, Manchester) were inhumane and ought to be regulated more closely. This opening chapter foreshadows many of the class-oriented issues that the characters will have to grapple with. Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 6-10 Chapter Six: Sleary’s Horsemanship Sissy Jupe lives in a public house called Pegasus’s Arms and this is where she leads the two men. The inscription at the entrance suggests that the public house is a place where alcoholics congregate and Mr. Bounderby and Mr.
Gradgrind are clearly out of their element. The decorations of the public house are theatrical and the joviality of the scene is all the more clear when Merrylegs appears. Sissy is surprised to find that her father is not in the room that they share. He had sent her on an errand to retrieve the “nine oils” as an ointment for his pain. Looking through the room, Sissy finds that the trunk is empty and she is suddenly fearful. [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]The other members of the performing group also live in the public house and they try to explain to Sissy that her father has abandoned her.
He has not left out of ill will, but because he thinks that she will have a better life without him as her guardian. It was with this intention that he had her enrolled in Mr. Gradgrind’s school. Mr. Bounderby is morally enraged that a man would actually desert his own daughter. She has no other family in the world. One of the members of the group, E. W. B. Childers, does his best to defend Signor Jupe’s honor. Jupe’s honest intention was to give his daughter a better life and while he wanted to stay with her, he did not believe that he was anything more than a hindrance. This certainly changes Mr.
Gradgrind’s plans‹as he had originally come to the public house with the intention of dismissing Jupe from the school. Despite Bounderby’s opinion, Gradgrind does not think it is in good taste to abandon Sissy after she has already been abandoned. Gradgrind gives her a choice to make on the spot: either she can stay with the Sleary performing group, remain in Pegasus’s Arms and never return to his school, or she can leave Sleary’s company, live with the Gradgrinds and attend school. If she chooses this option, of course, she is forbidden to have extended contact with the performers‹though they are the only people that she knows.
It is a difficult decision for Sissy to make but at the urging of Josephine Sleary, Sissy chooses to leave Pegasus’s Arms and join the Gradgrinds. While the performing group mourns Sissy’s loss, they are also joyful and they remind her that even though this is a harsh moment, life will be better for her. Sissy is losing a family and also a future vocation (as a performer) but when she remembers her father’s wishes, Sissy sees that it is right for her to join the Gradgrinds‹if only for the sake of obeying her father in absentia. Sissy becomes very emotional and Josephine comforts the crying child.
While Bounderby is short on patience, Mr. Gradgrind is not emotional, but he is not without pity. Even though he knows that Signor Jupe is never coming back to find Sissy, he indulges her child-like faith and allows her to carry the bottle of nine oils with her. The leader of the performing group tells Sissy that the bottle is heavy to carry and will be of little use to her. But Cecilia is convinced that her father will return to find her and that when he comes for her, he will want the bottle (She is not even convinced that he has deliberately left her‹though all facts suggest this is the case).
Analysis: Both the dog, Merrylegs, and the name of the public-house‹Pegasus’s Arms‹are symbols of the “fancy” that Sleary’s company offers, in contrast to the world of hard facts and figures. The additional cast includes a “Centaur” and a “cupid” which are also allusions to the same Greek mythologies that spawned the “Pegasus. ” It is certainly ironic that Bounderby, a man who has claimed to have been abandoned in his youth, would now be the advocate of Sissy’s rejection and abandonment. His hypocrisy is certainly one of the main targets of Dickens’s social ommentary. Mr. Sleary is one of Dickens’s caricatures. His loose eye and his lisp make him appear as ridiculous as circus performer might be expected to be. Still, he does have a few words of wisdom to offer and especially later on in the novel, Mr. Sleary is an archetypal fool who is actually wise. Chapter Seven: Mrs. Sparsit Mrs. Sparsit is the housekeeper for Mr. Bounderby‹as he is a bachelor and in need of someone to keep his house tidy. Mr. Bounderby especially relishes the arrangement because Mrs.
Sparsit was once a “highly connected” lady and she had seen better days. But she had fallen on “hard times” after marrying young and being widowed by a man who left her only debts and little fortune to rely upon. Bounderby’s boasting often dwelled upon the difference between their stories‹for he was low-born and moved himself up in society and she was high-born and now she is his housekeeper. Mrs. Sparsit is a very good housekeeper and in spite of Bounderby’s often uncivilized manner, she always retains the graces that befit a lady of her standing.
Bounderby discusses both Louisa and Cecilia Jupe and it is clear to see that he is very interested in Louisa but not at all amused by the idea of the Gradgrinds “bringing up the tumbling-girl. ” There is the hope that Cecilia might be a good influence on Louisa‹by providing her with a perfect example of all that can go wrong when one is not rooted in a disciplined upbringing. Bounderby thinks that if anything, Cecilia will corrupt Louisa. Concerning young Tom Gradgrind, Mr. Bounderby decides that at some point in the near future, after the young man has further progressed in his studies, he will make a job for him at the bank.
When Mrs. Sparsit attempts to interpose an opinion, Bounderby reminds her that she knows very little about these subjects because she has grown up in “devilish high society” though she has done very well at accommodating herself to the changes life has dealt her. Cecilia and Gradgrind are both present and Gradgrind overlooks Cecilia’s social awkwardness and makes his final decision to bring the girl into his household. He announces that she will be “reclaimed and formed” and that her previous education‹reading stories about fairies, dwarves and hunchbacks‹has come to an end.
Analysis: Characterization is very important in this chapter, which center on the character for whom it is named. Mrs. Sparsit’s name can be read as a combination of the words “sparse” and “sit. ” Throughout the novel, the reader will find that Sparsit is almost always described in terms of her posture (and she is usually sitting). Her character and her history are riddled with contradictions and contrasts. There is, for example, the irony of her husband dying of alcoholism (“brandy”) in the midst of French decadence (the port city of Calais).
And yet, Sparsit is to be considered as a moral example and as for power, she is both a “conqueror” and a “princess. ” Bounderby is described with various symbols of his own power; chief among them are his portrait and his bank documents. The portrait is an especially interesting symbol as it is a likeness of Bounderby and is also an artistic image. Why should Bounderby be so interested in an artistic rendering of himself? Perhaps it is because the portrait is not an element of fancy, but is an extremely accurate representation.
It is, essentially, a second Bounderby. Finally, there are a few instances of hyperbole in this chapter, as seen in much of Gradgrind and Bounderby’s dialogue about Cecilia Jupe. The reference to Fairies, Dwarves and the Hunchback as “destructive nonsense” is a little extreme. But this hard line of reasoning does situate Jupe’s experience within the themes of education and conversion. It is interesting to note that Cecilia is to be “reclaimed and formed” both intellectually and morally. Chapter Eight: Never Wonder
This short chapter is another one of Dickens’ interludes: “Let us strike the key-note again, before pursuing the tune. ” About six years previous, Louisa was overheard using the phrase “I wonderS. ” And her father forbade her from wondering. Between Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. M’Choakumchild all of the youthful impulses to wonder have been notably suppressed. The children born in Coketown are “unlucky infants” and all of the social bodies agree on the single point that these children are never to learn how to “wonder. ” Instead they are to focus on “trust” and “political economy. The town library was sometimes the source of Gradgrind’s dismay‹when readers opted for literature rather than geometry and drama instead of statistics. This sort of existence has become unbearable for the young Gradgrinds. Tom tells his sister: “I am sick of my life, Loo. I hate it altogether. ” He and Louisa are both sulking in their room and Tom insists that Louisa is the only person in his life who is capable of making him happy. Everyone else has fallen under the sway of dullness but Louisa has managed to keep a spark of the interesting alive.
Louisa looks at the shadows on the wall and she looks into the fire and she is able to almost spi