Chapter Two: Murdering the Innocents
Chapter Two begins with the introduction of Thomas Gradgrind, "a man of realitiesŠfacts 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...
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