Last Updated January 12, 2023.
The Gradgrind children are firmly forbidden to wonder. In fact, much of the population of Coketown, including the eighteen denominations, agree that wonder is unacceptable. Only the poorest class of people, those who work hard every day, wonder and read stories and reflect on humanity in any deep and creative way.
Tom expresses his hatred for life to Louisa. He thinks that Sissy hates him and all the rest of the Gradgrinds. He notices that Sissy feels “heavy,” just like Tom himself does. He calls himself a donkey and announces that he would “like to kick like one,” too, everyone except Louisa. Louisa replies that she realizes how unfortunate she herself is. She does not know what other girls know, and she cannot amuse her brother or give him any pleasure through stories. Both siblings understand the disadvantage of their education and upbringing.
Tom declares that he will have his revenge when he goes to live with Mr. Bounderby. He will manage his boss by referring to Louisa’s preferences, for she is Mr. Bounderby’s “little pet,” and he will do anything for her. That, Tom thinks, will work to his advantage, and he is looking forward to getting away from home. Louisa stares into the fire, lost in thought. She begins to say that her thoughts will wander, and at that moment, Mrs. Gradgrind opens the door and scolds Tom for being a bad influence on his sister. Louisa denies this, but her mother will not listen and declares that she wishes she had never had a family.