© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
by Charles Dickens
Thomas Gradgrind Timeline and Summary
Marries Mrs. Gradgrind because she "had no nonsense about her." He has children whom he decides to educate with facts and whose imagination and emotional development he hopes to repress and replace with logic. Founds a school to teach with this same philosophy. After Sleary's circus comes to town, Gradgrind catches his daughter Louisa and son Tom sneaking a peek at the circus. At the same time, he discovers that one of his school's students, Sissy Jupe, is the daughter of a circus clown, who has abandoned her. Gradgrind offers Sissy a place in his house as a sort of companion servant and a place at the school. A few years later, noticing that Louisa has grown up, he advises her to accept Bounderby's marriage proposal. A year after the wedding, Gradgrind has become a Member of Parliament. He meets James Harthouse, an aspiring politician. Gradgrind introduces Harthouse to Bounderby and Louisa. His wife dies, and he buries her without much feeling. One night while he is working, his daughter Louisa comes in half-crazy, confronts him about the awful way he raised her, tells him about her near-affair, and then collapses. He offers her his house as a place to stay apart from Bounderby. The arrangement becomes permanent when Bounderby rejects the marriage. After Stephen is found inside the hole, Gradgrind realizes that Tom is a thief, and that his own life and philosophy are failures. Gradgrind goes to Sleary's circus to help Tom escape overseas, and there he is shocked to find that his model student Bitzer is now completely selfish and cold. Gradgrind reforms his ideas, and lives to old age.