England, its houses and skies blackened by smoke from factory chimneys.
One of its leading citizens is Thomas Gradgrind, future member of Parliament
and governor of the local school.
Coketown is a grimy, smelly industrial town in northern England, its
houses and skies blackened by smoke from factory chimneys. One of its
leading citizens is Thomas Gradgrind, future member of Parliament and
governor of the local school. Gradgrind lives with his wife and five
children, including the eldest, Louisa, and Tom, Jr.
When we first see Gradgrind, he is observing a typical class in his
school, taught by Mr. M'Choakumchild. Gradgrind lectures the teacher
on the school's philosophy: "Facts" are important, nothing else but
facts. All else is "fancy"- sentiment, imagination. Cecilia Jupe
("Sissy"), the daughter of an acrobatic rider and clown with a
traveling troupe of performers, is asked to define a horse. She can't,
but Bitzer, an ambitious student, can. His answer is based entirely on
Gradgrind later spies Louisa and young Tom outside the horse-riding
(circus) tent, trying to catch a glimpse of the performers. Shocked at
their interest in such frivolity, Gradgrind seeks the advice of his
friend, Josiah Bounderby, a banker and factory owner. They conclude
that it must be Sissy Jupe's influence that is responsible. They try
to find her father, but discover that he's deserted Sissy to prevent
her from seeing him lose his talents. Gradgrind offers to take care of
Sissy by bringing her into his household, hoping that Louisa will see
what happens to someone who was raised on fancy, not fact. Sissy
accepts his invitation.
... middle of paper ...
...rrest Tom, Sleary helps the young
culprit escape to a port where he can sail to safety. Sleary offers
the final parting words of wisdom: people need amusement as much as
they need work.
The characters go on to their respective futures. Mrs. Sparsit will
live unhappily with her relative, Lady Scadgers. Bounderby will die of
a fit. A repentant Tom will die before he has a chance to return home.
Gradgrind will grow old, alienated from those who once shared his
philosophy. Rachael will continue to live in town, occasionally
helping a drunken wretch of a woman who shows up from time to time.
Sissy will marry and have children, but there is no such reward in
store for Louisa. She must be content with helping those less
fortunate than she. Nothing changes for the workers of Coketown. They
continue to be exploited from every side, all of life still "a
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