Hard Times


Charles Dickens

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Hard Times: Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby stroll into industrial Coketown, once a red brick town but now discolored, having been blasted with ashes and smoke from the factories. Everything in the town looks identical, and is eminently useful, and in short has been produced so as to produce a maximally useful product.
The language describing Coketown's appearance could not be more condemning or disdainful. It used to be colorful and attractive, but the ashes from the factory has made it into a kind of industrial hell that sees uniqueness of any kind—such as individual human beings—as an obstacle in the way of efficiency and usefulness.
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On their way to the Jupes' home, Gradgrind and Bounderby collide with Sissy Jupe and Bitzer; Gradgrind finds, to his chagrin, that his star pupil was mean-spiritedly chasing the young girl. Gradgrind asks a frightened Sissy what she was doing and where she was going, and she tells the two gentlemen that she was going home to her father with a bottle of oils for him, that ought to heal his bruises from the circus.
Bitzer's treatment of Sissy is a sign that an education of only "Facts "does not necessarily develop moral or good people. As the book progresses, Bitzer is revealed to possess a number of nasty qualities that proceeded from his education of "Facts".
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Mr. Bounderby is coarse and insensitive in the way he responds to this information and jeers at her and her father's way of earning their living. In response to Mr. Gradgrind's somewhat kinder questions, she docilely leads them to where she and her father are staying.
Bounderby, as a manufacturer and therefore a representative of industrialism in Coketown, also proves to have some nasty personal qualities, showing what kind of men make their living in the industrial world. Gradgrind's relative kindness indicates that he has more potential to have a heart than Bounderby does.
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