Cecilia Jupe (Sissy): Character Analysis in Hard Times

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Facts unknown to Sissy

      Sissy Jupe is the offspring of a tumbler. Her full name is Cecilia Jupe but her father has given her a nickname Sissy. In the very beginning Gradgrind calls her “Girl Number 20.” She is a pupil in the model school of Mr. Gradgrind. She feels a good deal of embarrassment when Gradgrind tells her that her father should not call her “Sissy” but Cecilia. Further, she feels perplexed at being unable to define a horse according to facts only. Bitzer another pupil, defines horse the way Gradgrind wants him. “Girl number twenty unable to define a horse! said Mr. Gradgrind, for the benefit of all the little pitchers. Girl number twenty possessed of no facts in reference to one of the commonest animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer yours’. Her reply to another two questions are also found even more unsatisfactory She says that she is fond of flowers. “I am very fond of flowers .... and I would fancy....”: The government official, present in the class room also rebukes her to fancy Both Gradgrind and the Government official wants her to learn only “Facts”

Sissy: Abandoned by her Father

      Gradgrind’ and Bounderby suspect that Louisa’s act of peeping through the tent hole of circus and this kind of eagerness is due to her friendship with Sissy Thus both friends decide to dismiss Sissy from the model school. When it is revealed that Sissy’s father has run away deserting his child behind, everyone feels sympathy for her except Bounderby Sissy is not ready to believe that her father has abandoned her. She has this firm conviction that her father will soon come back, Gradgrind offers to give her protection in his own house and this disappoints Bounderby greatly But even staying in Gradgrind’s house, she keeps on hoping that her father would one day turn back and she keeps the bottle of oils all the time with great attention and care. She had been sent to get that for him who required it for massage.

Her Unconvincing Performance at School

      Living beneath the roof of Gradgrind, Sissy attends upon the sick wife of Gradgrind and at the same time she goes to school also. But however, her progress at school is unconvincing and disappointing. She fails to give any “factual” answer to the question. But in every answer there lies truth disregarding the doctrine of fact that is taught in the model institution. For instance, when it is asked if the nation is prosperous, her reply is that she can not know whether it is prosperous or not unless she knows first, who has got the money and whether it belongs to her or not. Gradgrind does not feel happy with Sissy’s performance at school. But inspite of it, he feels affection for her. She proves very useful and efficient in the household works especially in attending upon Mrs. Bounderby As the story proceeds we find Sissy’s service to Gradgrind’s family very valuable and important.

Sissy’s Relations with Louisa

      Louisa’s relation with Sissy in the beginning seems harmonious and friendly. Louisa’s eagerness to see the circus is thought to be associated with Sissy by Grandgrind and Bounderby. When Sissy starts living under the protection of Gradgrind, there develops more intimacy between both Louisa and Sissy. Sissy tells her own history of life to Louisa and she speaks in ridiculous manner about the deficient progress that she is making at school. But when Sissy looks disapprovingly to Louisa when she hears that Louisa has agreed on marrying the man too older than herself from that moment Louisa starts maintaning a distance from Sissy She grows cold towards her. Dickens writes about it in the following manner. “Sissy had suddenly turned her head and looked, in wonder, in pity in sorrow in doubt in a multitude of emotions, towards Louisa.” This cold and indifferent attitude of Louisa continues for a considerable time and she makes no secret of it even at the occasion of her visit to Mr. Bounderby’s house when Mrs. Bounderby is reported to be seriously ill. But Sissy’s love for Louisa remains unshaken. When Louisa comes to her father’s residence in miserable condition, she asks for her permission to attend upon her until she regains her health. This kind of Sissy’s love for Louisa is very touching and even it does not leave Louisa also. She is deeply affected by the Sissy’s sisterly love. From this moment on there has established a harmony among them.

The Meeting of Harthouse and Sissy

      Another striking characteristic of Sissy is her courage. It is well exposed in Sissy’s act of taking initiative to meet Harthouse at his hotel’s room and tell him truly and respectively about the harm that he has done to Louisa in his suggestion to elope with Louisa. Sissy very firmly says to Harthouse; unawed by his personality and status, that he should go away “immediately and finally” She urges him to leave the town immediately in order to make amends to Louisa. She is not afraid but very courageously she reveals to him. “She was not afraid of him, or in anyway discence rated. She seemed to have her mind entirely preoccupied with the occasion of her visit, and to have substituted that consideration for herself. She is a most convincing character in the novel drawn by Dickens.

Sissy’s Help rendered to Tom

      Sissy’s devotion and great services to Gradgrind is revealed on several points when she hears the statements of Stephen before death in which he has indicated that it is Tom who has committed the crime of robbery she calmly whispers to Tom to slip away from there. She tells him to go straight to Mr. Sleary who will certainly provide him shelter if he would mention her name. Later, she, accompanied with Gradgrind, goes to Mr. Sleary’s circus and renders whatever aid is essential in the arrangements that are to be made for shifting Tom to some foreign country Everyone of the. circustroupe greets Sissy with great warmth and love because she had been one time their pets. Thus these are her two great achievements in life and valuable services to Gradgrind’s family her dealing with Harthouse and act of helping Tom at a very crucial moment of life.

Sissy: A Link between All Characters

      Sissy links all the characters in a very unselfish manner She is the best friend of Louisa, and being a true friend she takes care of Louisa’s feeling a lot. She tells her own history of life to Louisa and she speaks despairingly regarding the unconvincing progress that she is making at school. Though Louisa’s friendliness turns into coldness when Sissy disapproves Louisa’s consent to marry Bounderby; the man too older than her. Dickens informs about her reaction in the following manner: “Sissy had suddenly turned her head and looked, in wonder, in pity in sorrow, in doubt, in multitudes of emotions, towards Louisa”. From this moment onwards Louisa has kept Sissy at a distance. But Sissy’s affection for Louisa never wavers and she remains loyal to her Sissy looks after Louisa very devotedly and sincerely when she comes to her father; in a very miserable condition after leaving Bounderby’s home. She nurses her with whole heart and this affects Louisa a lot. It seems from this moment that love and harmony is restored in their relation forever.

      As the story proceeds, Sissy is found helping Rachael also in her need. Both of them try to locate Stephen where he is and finally finds him fallen into the chasm. Sissy’s act of suggesting Tom to slip away from the scene and take shelter at Mr. Slear’s circus in order to escape from the consequences of law after being exposed as a robber, is the most admirable service rendered by Sissy to Tom or Gradgrind’s family. In doing that she helps Mr. Gradgrind also because he enjoys a good name in society Thus she is connected with the story of Tom also. Sissy under the patronage of Gradgrind tries to obey his instructions about not going to meet the members of circus-troupe. It is breath of her imaginative life, emerged in the fanciful surrounding of the warm-hearted circus troupe that bring relief and flexibility to the Gradgrind’s principle of statistics. Everybody loves her.

      Sissy’s love has been braided through that utilitarian world; the assistance of a loving heart and gentle strength make, Mr. Gradgrind and Louisa come to repose at the end. The resolution of the remaining part of the story of novel comes through Sissy and Mr. Sleary’s non-utilitarian gratitude for Mr. Grandgrind’s kindness to her.

The Symbolic Significance of Sissy’s Character

      F. R. Leavis stressing the symbolic role of Sissy says that in Hard Times she is the part of the poetically-creative operation of
Dickens’ genius. He says that “Sissy stands for vitality as well goodness—they are seen, in fact, as one; she is generous, impulsive life, finding self-fulfilment in self-forgetfulness - all that is the antithesis of calculating self-interest. There is an essentially Laurentian suggestion about the way in which, ‘the dark-eyed and dark-haired girl, contrasting with Bitzer, seemed to receive a ‘deeper and more lustrous color from the sun’, so opposing the life that is lived freely and richly from the deep instinctive and emotional springs to the thin-blooded quasi-mechanical product of Gradgrindery.”

      F. R. Leavis continues to say that Sissy’s symbolic significance is linked up with that of Sleary’s Horse-riding where human kindness is very insistently associated with vitality.


      Sissy presents the author’s confidence that the forces of life and light are finally stronger than their sterile opposites. Her father’s deep longing was that he wants her to be a light-bearer. Sissy’s intuitive understanding of her’s father’s motive in deserting her, carries her through all her failures to imbibe facts that are dead. She comes out for what she is most required—looking after Mrs. Gradgrind, making the lives of the children of Gradgrind full of love and happiness, attending upon Louisa during her worse condition.

Conclusion: Sissy, Vital to the Plot

      Thus Sissy’s role is very much important to the novel. She is vital to the plot. Besides her important role, her character also contributes a lot to the design of the book.

      Simplicity homeliness, innocence, unsophisticated unselfishness, intelligent, affectionate spirit of enterprise these are her striking characteristics. She is a girl of unspoilt virtues.

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