Hard Times Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Comment on the education of Sissy Jupe in Hard Times.

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It is important to identify Sissy Jupe's function in this tremendous novel concerning Victorian industrialisation and utilitarianism. Cecilia Jupe is the daughter of a clown in Sleary's circus, and as such, becomes the representative of "Fancy" and the imagination and operates as a foil to Louisa. Sissy shows that she has a great imagination and is compassionate, whereas Louisa is strictly rational and mostly is unable to express her feelings. Their friendship as the novel progresses allows Louisa to explore and gradually express her own sensitivity.

In Chapter Two, however, we see Sissy bearing the brunt of Mr. Gradgrind's full educational prowess. Under his system of education, Sissy is a complete failure. She is unable to "define" a horse, even though she has lived and worked with them all of her life in the circus. Then she says she would carpet her room with representations of flowers because she is "very fond of flowers," because "they would be pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant." However, in response to this "fancy," she is told by both her teachers:

"Ay, ay, ay! But you mustn't fancy," cried the gentleman, quite elated by coming so happily to his point. "That's it! You are never to fancy."

"You are not, Cecilia Jupe," Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, "to do anything of that kind."

"Fact, fact, fact!" said the gentleman. And "Fact, fact, fact!" repeated Thomas Gradgrind.

Clearly, in response to the foundational importance of fact and the complete extinction of fancy that Gradgrind's education requires, Sissy Jupe is never going to succeed. However, in spite of this education, it is important to note that Sissy develops into a young woman who is able to maintain her own principles and beliefs, as opposed to Bitzer or Louisa, who become warped as a result of their education.

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