The Plot – Coketown is a grimy, smelly industrial town in northernEngland, its houses and skies blackened by smoke from factory chimneys.One of its leading citizens is Thomas Gradgrind, future member of Parliamentand governor of the local school.
Coketown is a grimy, smelly industrial town in northern England, itshouses and skies blackened by smoke from factory chimneys. One of itsleading citizens is Thomas Gradgrind, future member of Parliament andgovernor of the local school. Gradgrind lives with his wife and fivechildren, including the eldest, Louisa, and Tom, Jr.
When we first see Gradgrind, he is observing a typical class in hisschool, taught by Mr. M’Choakumchild. Gradgrind lectures the teacheron the school’s philosophy: “Facts” are important, nothing else butfacts. All else is “fancy”- sentiment, imagination. Cecilia Jupe(“Sissy”), the daughter of an acrobatic rider and clown with atraveling troupe of performers, is asked to define a horse. She can’t,but Bitzer, an ambitious student, can. His answer is based entirely onfact.
Gradgrind later spies Louisa and young Tom outside the horse-riding(circus) tent, trying to catch a glimpse of the performers. Shocked attheir interest in such frivolity, Gradgrind seeks the advice of hisfriend, Josiah Bounderby, a banker and factory owner. They concludethat it must be Sissy Jupe’s influence that is responsible. They tryto find her father, but discover that he’s deserted Sissy to preventher from seeing him lose his talents. Gradgrind offers to take care ofSissy by bringing her into his household, hoping that Louisa will seewhat happens to someone who was raised on fancy, not fact. Sissyaccepts his invitation.
…rrest Tom, Sleary helps the youngculprit escape to a port where he can sail to safety. Sleary offersthe final parting words of wisdom: people need amusement as much asthey need work.
The characters go on to their respective futures. Mrs. Sparsit willlive unhappily with her relative, Lady Scadgers. Bounderby will die ofa fit. A repentant Tom will die before he has a chance to return home.Gradgrind will grow old, alienated from those who once shared hisphilosophy. Rachael will continue to live in town, occasionallyhelping 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 instore for Louisa. She must be content with helping those lessfortunate than she. Nothing changes for the workers of Coketown. Theycontinue to be exploited from every side, all of life still “amuddle.”