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    You first see Bitzer in M'Choakumchild's classroom, offering the perfect factual definition of a horse. The direct opposite of Sissy Jupe, he is the perfect product of the Gradgrind philosophy- emotionless, coldhearted, and ambitious. Bitzer later becomes a porter at Bounderby's bank, spies for Mrs. Sparsit, and nearly catches Tom Gradgrind before his escape. Everything about him is so light- hair, complexion, eyes- that he is colorless. What does such a description tell you? If someone suggested that Bitzer was pale because he had been drained of the colors of humanity, would you agree or disagree?


    A factory worker who is Stephen's best friend, Rachael is selfless, loving, patient, and long-suffering. Her name reminds us of the Biblical Rachel, whom Jacob loved but had to wait many years before he could marry. Like her Biblical counterpart, Rachael is in love with a man she can't marry, and she accepts her fate. She compassionately helps the wretched Mrs. Blackpool whenever that lady wanders into town, drunk and abusive. Rachael continues her care of the woman after Stephen's death.


    Mrs. Pegler is Bounderby's mother, paid by him to stay out of his life. This sweet old woman is content to visit Coketown once a year and gaze at her successful son from a distance. For a time she is implicated in the robbery because she has been seen with Stephen, but her "capture" by Mrs. Sparsit only reveals the lies Bounderby has been telling about his "cruel" childhood.


    Owner of Sleary's Horse-riding, a traveling circus, Sleary is kindhearted and generous. He speaks with a lisp (the result of chronic asthma) and represents a philosophy- "People must be amused"- that is the direct opposite of Gradgrindism. He is responsible for helping Tom escape from Bitzer's clutches to safe passage overseas.


    A teacher at Gradgrind's model school, M'Choakumchild is a recent graduate of an educational "factory." There he learned a wide variety of subjects but little about the art of teaching beyond stuffing the heads of his students with facts. He represents some of the worst abuses of the educational system.


    Mrs. Blackpool, Stephen Blackpool's wife, turned to drink some years ago and sold their possessions to support her habit. Stephen paid her to stay away, but she returns on drunken jags, to bring shame and disgrace on her husband, as well as prolonged emotional anguish.


    Slackbridge is the union organizer who urges the workers to reject Stephen for refusing to join their ranks. An unattractive and sour man, Slackbridge represents those who would exploit the workers to satisfy their own need for power.

  • MR. JUPE

    A horse-riding acrobat, and Sissy's father, Jupe never appears in the book, but his presence is felt through Sissy's devotion to him. He deserts Sissy rather than have her see him lose his agility. Jupe is assumed dead when his dog Merrylegs returns alone to Sleary's circus.

    Do you see Jupe's desertion of his daughter as an act of kindness or an act of cruelty?


    Childers and Kidderminster are performers in Sleary's circus, who deflate Bounderby's pomposity early in the book.


ECC [Hard Times Contents] []

© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of is prohibited.


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