Business World

Topics: Hard Times, Gradgrind, Charles Dickens Pages: 89 (31819 words) Published: December 4, 2009
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. 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...
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