Study Guide

Hard Times Book 1, Chapter 2

By Charles Dickens

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Book 1, Chapter 2

Murdering the Innocents

  • Thomas Gradgrind mentally introduces himself to the schoolchildren, excited to "storm away" their imaginations and replace them with "a grim mechanical substitute."
  • Gradgrind interrogates Sissy Jupe about her name, what her father does for a living, and the definition of a horse. Sissy is unable to answer these questions sufficiently factually. She's shown up by teacher's pet Bitzer, who has this thing down: "Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth."
  • Josiah Bounderby tells the class that because real horses don't walk on walls and people don't step on flowers, wallpaper and carpets shouldn't have those things on them either.
  • Gradgrind and Bounderby's lesson turns out to have been a sort of coaching session for the actual teacher, Mr. M'Choakumchild, who now takes over the class.

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