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Mrs. Pegler is the little old woman who comes to town once a year to gaze at Bounderby. She is revealed to be his mom, whom he pays to stay away, because he tells everyone who will listen that he grew up practically an orphan in the streets. Instead, of course, what he has is a mom who loves him so much that she's willing to go along with this crazy arrangement as long as it's for his benefit.
There are a lot of parents in this novel: Sissy's dad, whom we never see except through her stories; Gradgrind; his wife, the ever sickly Mrs. Gradgrind; Sleary, the circus owner and father of the equestrienne Josephine Sleary. How does Mrs. Pegler compare to these others? What if Mrs. Gradgrind had been as devoted a mother as Mrs. Pegler? How would the childhood and adulthood of Louisa and Tom be different?