Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated January 12, 2023.

It is summer in Coketown, and the streets and factories are “shrouded in a haze” of smoke. The narrator remarks on how the mill owners often feel ill-used when the government and the inspectors protest dangerous conditions or require them to make concessions to their workers. They never consider that perhaps the Hands are the ones who are ill-used. The heat is oppressive and the smells are overwhelming.

Mrs. Sparsit sits in her apartment at the Bank. A year has passed since Mr. Bounderby married Louisa Gradgrind, and Mrs. Sparsit still pities Louisa. Now she thinks of herself as the “Bank Fairy,” the one in charge of reigning over the bank and its equipment. She is accompanied and served by a light porter, the boy Bitzer now grown up. The bank is closed for the day, and Mrs. Sparsit and Bitzer discuss the workers and their efforts to unite. They also discuss the shortcomings of Tom Gradgrind, whom Bitzer calls “a dissipated, extravagant idler.” Bitzer, on the other hand, is determined to behave as a perfectly “rational creature” according to his education, and he expects everyone else to do so as well.

A stranger then knocks on the door of the bank. He is a languid young gentleman with an air of boredom. Mrs. Sparsit agrees to see him. The young man is looking for Mr. Bounderby, for he has a letter of introduction from Mr. Gradgrind. Mrs. Sparsit provides Mr. Bounderby’s address, and the young man questions her about Mrs. Bounderby and then leaves. Mrs. Sparsit sits deep in thought and rises to her supper with an “O, you Fool!”

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