Hard Times: Book 1 Chapter 5 - Summary & Analysis

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The Keynote


      Coketown is a town of tall chimneys, machinery where ceaselessly smokes rise in the air. The town has various large streets, very much similar to one another. Even the inhabitants resemble each other. Around eighteen different religious sets of people belong to this town. The town is completely governed by facts. Gradgrind and Bounderby two eminently practical gentlemen are going to meet Sissy’s father and tell him to take Sissy back from the school. They meet Sissy running through the street. She stops seeing these two gentlemen. She says that Bitzer is chasing her and he has frightened her by making callous faces at her. Now Bitzer also arrives there breathlessly and says that he was just trying to explain the definition of horse to Sissy In Sissy’s hand there was a bottle which seems to Gradgrind containing gin but Sissy explains that this bottle has oils with which her father massages himself whenever he gets bruises during circus performance. Thereafter, she escorts these men to the locality Ped’s End where she and her father are residing in a mean little public house, and where other members of the circus troupe are also living.

Critical Analysis

      Here in this chapter also satirical humor is continued. Coketown is described in a very funny manner. We are told that fact is the keynote of Coketown. “Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of the town; fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the immaterial.” The school is fact, the relation between master and men are factual. Everything is fact.

      Gradgrind has very low opinion about the circus performers, that is why he thinks, on seeing bottle in the hands of Sissy that it contains gin for her father. It is revealed in this chapter that Gradgrind is not a rough fellow, like Bounderby. He is kind also but the only flaw in his character is his over-emphasis on reason and complete avoidance of imaginative faculty in human beings.

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