Hard Times: Book 1 Chapter 2 - Summary & Analysis

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      Thomas Gradgrind is presented as a man of utter realities, a man who believes that two and two make four and nothing else. He regards even human beings as arithmetical figures. For him, the boys and girls are like vessels who are to be filled with facts. Now Gradgrind asks “girl number twenty” who she is because he has never seen her before. She replies that her name is Sissy Jupe. Gradgrind says that “Sissy” is no name and she should call herself “Cecilia”. When the girl says that her father calls her Sissy Gardgrind says that her father has no business to do it and she should tell her father to address her as Cecilia. Then Gradgrind asks her to define a horse. The girl, who was already perplexed by Gradgrind’s discrimination between Sissy and Cecilia can not give a factual definition of horse. Now Bitzer gives the definition of horse and Gradgrind agrees to that. He says, “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring, in marshy countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard, but require to be shed with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.”

      At this moment, the third gentleman steps forward. He has to inspect the school. This officer also fully approves the definition of horse. Thereafter he asks two questions about the choice of papers for walls and carpets for floor. As the students can not give a convincing answer; the officer explains that a room should not be covered with horses because factually horses are never seen going up and down the walls of a room. The carpet of flowers should not be spread on the floor because flowers should not be crushed under the feet whosoever walks upon the floor. Thereafter he expresses his strong dislike for anything like “fancy” because “fact” only has supreme value. Then, he calls the schoolmaster to address the class and teach his first lesson. The schoolmaster Mr. McCoakumchild, now proceeds to teach in relation to the principles already propounded by Gradgrind and the government official.

      All "the three officers have single business to explain “facts” and they want to demolish fancy and imagination of children inject fact only in the minds of the students. It is amusing to read that Gradgrind does not approve the nickname “Sissy”. Bitzer’s definition of horse, accepted by Gradgrind is also quite amusing.

Critical Analysis

      Gradgrind’s philosophy of facts is more explained in this chapter. But satirical tone is not ceased. Dickens ridicules Gradgrind who always carries in his pocket a multiplication table. He also carries rule, couple of scales in order to measure human beings through calculations. It is quite amusing that he disapproves the name Sissy (nickname) and calls her by the name ‘Cecilia’ because Gradgrind is a steadfast believer of “facts”. He agrees to Bitzer’s definition of horse because it was entirely based on facts. Even the government official is of the same attitude. He says Cecilia not to fancy and Gradgrind repeats, “You are to be in all things regulated and governed by fact”. The new schoolmaster is the photocopy of the view of Gradgrind so far as his factual theory is concerned and he is also satirized as well for that. “If he had only learned a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more.”

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