Book I, Chapters 1-2: Summary and Analysis

Chapter 1: The One Thing Needful
Chapter 2: Murdering the Innocents

New Characters:
Thomas Gradgrind: the proprietor of a model school

Mr. M’Choakumchild: the school teacher

Unnamed “Government Officer”: present to inspect schools

Bitzer: a model pupil

Sissy Jupe: another pupil, who answers inappropriately

In a plain, bare classroom, students sit in rows, listening to a speaker, a square-faced man who lectures them on the all-importance of Fact. This is Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, a “man of Realities, a man of facts and calculation.” He is accompanied in the classroom by two other adults: his school teacher, Mr. M’Choakumchild, a recent graduate of the new state-supported teacher training, and an unnamed man, a “government officer,” apparently inspecting the school in his official capacity.

Gradgrind calls on Sissy Jupe (as “girl number 20”), asks for her name and what her father does for a living, ascertains that he is one of the “horse riders” (performers) in Sleary’s Circus, and asks for her “definition of a horse.” Sissy is unable to give him the answer, but another student, the boy Bitzer, answers in the approved style: “Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders.”

The third man then addresses the children, asking them if they would decorate their houses with patterned wallpaper or cover their floors with flowered carpets. Sissy Jupe is again called upon and answers that she would very much like to decorate her home that way,...

(The entire section is 664 words.)