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
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
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
- MR. SLEARY
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.
- MR. M'CHOAKUMCHILD
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
- MRS. BLACKPOOL
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
- 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
Childers and Kidderminster are performers in Sleary's circus, who deflate
Bounderby's pomposity early in the book.
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