Book I, Chapters 1-2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Chapter 1 is entitled “The One Thing Needful.” What is that one thing?

2. What does Gradgrind want to “plant” and what does he want to “root out” of his pupils?

3. To whom does Gradgrind say “Sissy is not a name…Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.”

4. What gesture does Bitzer make once he finishes his answer?

5. What direct comment does the narrator permit himself about the teacher M’Choakumchild?

6. The “government officer” is compared to what kind of professional athlete?

7. Instead of patterned china and wallpaper and flowery carpets, with what does the government officer urge the children to decorate their homes?

8. Which character is said to have been, with 140 others, “turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs”?

9. How does the girl Sissy’s physical appearance differ from the boy Bitzer’s?

10. Which “calling” (occupation) does Gradgrind not wish mentioned in his classroom?

1. “Facts” are the one thing needful, at least as far as Gradgrind and his associates are concerned. The phrase is meant to suggest the reductiveness of Gradgrind’s philosophy.

2. Again, “Facts” are what Gradgrind wishes to plant in the minds of the children; to be rooted out is any suggestion...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Book I, Chapters 3-4: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Gradgrind is “virtually retired” from what occupation?

2. How does Stone Lodge, Gradgrind’s house, resemble its owner?

3. Who is often referred to as “eminently practical”?

4. Which character describes himself as “a young vagabond”?

5. Who says, “Go and be somethingological directly.”?

6. Signor Jupe, Sissy Jupe’s father, performs in the circus with what animal?

7. Mr. Gradgrind’s political ambitions include what?

8. Who asked whom to come peep at the circus?

9. Why does Mr. Bounderby always “throw” on his hat?

10. What is Louisa’s reaction to Mr. Bounderby’s kiss?

1. Gradgrind has virtually retired from the “wholesale hardware trade.”

2. Stone Lodge resembles its owner in several ways. It is square, regular, “balanced” (six windows on one side and six on the other). It is an “uncompromising fact on the landscape.”
And its portico (covered porch with columns) looks like Gradgrind’s forehead.

3. Thomas Gradgrind is referred to as “eminently practical” by fellow Coketowners. He refers to himself as “eminently practical.”

4. Mr. Bounderby, recounting his childhood and youth, calls himself a young vagabond.

5. Mrs. Gradgrind is in the habit of saying this when she wants to dismiss the children to their own pursuits. Dickens remarks that she is “not a scientific character.”

6. Signor Jupe performs with a trained dog named Merrylegs.

7. Mr. Gradgrind wants to be elected to Parliament.

8. Mr. Gradgrind assumes that Tom brought his sister to the circus; Louisa says that it was she who asked him to go.

9. Mr. Bounderby “throws” on his hat as if to express that he is “a man who had been far too busily employed in making himself, to acquire any fashion of wearing his hat.”

10. Louisa reacts with disgust; she is shown frantically trying to rub the spot on her cheek that Bounderby had kissed with her handkerchief, “until it was burning red.”

Book I, Chapters 5-6: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does Coketown’s river run with?

2. Coketown’s buildings are made of what material?

3. What does Bitzer tell Gradgrind he was about to help Sissy with before she ran away?

4. What is Sissy carrying when she is stopped by Gradgrind and Bounderby?

5. The picture behind the bar in the Pegasus’ Arms is of what animal?

6. Why did Signor Jupe enroll his daughter in Gradgrind’s school?

7. What is a “cackler”?

8. The “Wild Horseman of the North American Prairies” refers to which of Sleary’s performers?

9. Who is “the diminutive boy with an old face”?

10. What does Mr. Sleary declare he has never done yet in his life and doesn’t intend to start?

1. The river in Coketown runs purple with dye.

2. The buildings in Coketown are red and black—red from the brick, black from the soot of the factory chimneys.

3. Bitzer tells Gradgrind he was only trying to help Sissy with her definitions.

4. Sissy is carrying a jar of “nine oils” used by the circus performers to soothe their muscles.

5. The picture in the bar shows a horse.

6. Signor Jupe enrolled Sissy in Gradgrind’s school because he “had always had it in his head” to have her educated.

7. A “cackler,” in the jargon of the circus, is a speaker.

8. Mr. Childers is billed as the “Wild Horseman of the North American Prairies.”

9. The diminutive boy with the old face is Mr. Childers’ son and stage partner, Master Kidderminster.

10. Mr. Sleary declares that he has never yet injured one of his horses, and that he has no intention of injuring any of their riders.

Book I, Chapter 7: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Mrs. Sparsit occupied in making for her employer?

2. How much does Mr. Bounderby pay yearly for Mrs. Sparsit’s services?

3. Where did the late Mr. Sparsit die, and of what?

4. What has to happen before Tom Gradgrind can start to work for Bounderby?

5. Who speaks “with a kind of social widowhood” upon her?

6. Who is said to have a “moral infection of clap-trap in him”?

7. When does Mr. Gradgrind lower his voice?

8. What is the “oversight” Gradgrind mentions?

9. Which of Mrs. Sparsit’s facial features are most pronounced?

10. Who is to be “reclaimed and formed” and in what way?

1. Mrs. Sparsit is preparing Mr. Bounderby’s breakfast tea.

2. Mr. Bounderby gives Mrs. Sparsit 100 pounds a year.

3. Mr. Sparsit died from consuming too much brandy in Calais, France.

4. Tom must finish up his education before coming to work for Bounderby.

5. Mrs. Sparsit is said to speak with an air of “social widowhood.”

6. This phrase applies to Mr. Bounderby; Dickens is referring to the way strangers, ordinarily modest, take to boasting about him.

7. Mr. Gradgrind lowers his voice when he talks to Louisa about her reading.

8. Mr. Gradgrind is referring to Sissy’s failure to include Mrs. Sparsit in her curtseying.

9. Mrs. Sparsit has a long “Coriolanian” (Roman) nose and “dense black eyebrows.”

10. Sissy Jupe is to be reclaimed and formed by the education she will receive at Gradgrind’s.

Book I, Chapter 8: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What do you think Dickens means by the opening words of Chapter 8, “Let us strike the key-note again, before pursuing the tune”?

2. How many church denominations compete for the allegiance of Coketown’s population?

3. Mr. Gradgrind is said to have “greatly tormented his mind” about what?

4. Who does Tom say hates him and all the family?

5. The “Jaundiced Jail” is Tom’s way of referring to what?

6. What does Louisa wish she had learned, so as to be able to “reconcile” Tom to conditions at home?

7. What will be Tom’s “revenge” when he goes off to work at Bounderby’s?

8. In what way does Tom propose to “smooth” and “manage” Bounderby?

9. What does Tom see in the fire?

10. Mrs. Gradgrind repeats which one of her favorite “cogent remarks” to her children?

1. By the “key-note,” Dickens may mean his educational theme, and by the “tune” how it works itself out in the story of Tom and Louisa Gradgrind. The “key-note” might also refer to his evocation of Coketown.

2. There are 18 churches in Coketown.

3. Mr. Gradgrind worries greatly about what books people take out of Coketown’s library.

4. Tom believes that Sissy Jupe hates him and all his family.

5. Tom calls Stone Lodge a “Jaundiced Jail.”

6. Louisa says she wished she knew how to play an instrument, or sing, or talk amusingly, as other girls have been taught to do.

7. Tom says he will enjoy himself, go out more, and “see something.”

8. Whenever Bounderby says anything he doesn’t like to hear, Tom will just mention how his sister would be hurt, and how she expects him (Tom) to be treated gently.

9. Tom sees nothing in the fire, “except that it is a fire…and looks as stupid and blank as everything else looks.”

10. Mrs. Gradgrind says she wishes she “had never had a family, and then you would know what it was to do without me!” She says the same thing in Chapter 4.

Book I, Chapter 9: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Whispering the “awful word,” Sissy divulges that her father is a what?

2. What word always reminds Sissy of stutterings?

3. What “terrible communication” does Sissy make about her mother?

4. What does Sissy remember her father doing when she was “quite a baby”?

5. What is Sissy’s reply to Louisa’s question about where she lived with her father?

6. Which of the stories Sissy read her father did he seem particularly to enjoy?

7. What was the object of Sissy’s father’s one outburst of anger?

8. Why does every letter that she sees in Mr. Gradgrind’s hand take Sissy’s breath away and blind her eyes?

9. “That not unprecedented triumph of calculation which is usually at work on number one” refers to which character?

10. Asked for the first principle of political economy, Sissy’s “absurd” answer is what?

1. Sissy tells Louisa that her father is a clown (in the circus).

2. The word “statistics” always reminds Sissy of stutterings.

3. Sissy’s “terrible communication” is that her mother was a dancer.

4. Sissy remembers her father carrying her.

5. Sissy says she traveled about the country, never staying in one place.

6. Sissy’s father took particular delight in the Arabian Nights.

7. The object of Signor Jupe’s anger was his trained dog, Merrylegs.

8. A letter in Gradgrind’s hand has this effect on her because she supposes it might be either from her father, or from Mr. Sleary, giving news about her father.

9. The phrase refers to young Tom Gradgrind.

10. Sissy’s answer is that the first principle of political economy is “To do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.”

Book I, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who are the “Hands” of Coketown?

2. Only in his expression does Blackpool resemble what set of men?

3. What do travelers by express train say about the spectacle of Coketown’s factories at night?

4. How old is Rachael?

5. Why does the undertaker in Rachael’s neighborhood have a black ladder?

6. The “crashing, smashing, tearing piece of mechanism” refers to what?

7. How does Mrs. Sparsit react when Blackpool says he has come to ask, “How I am to be ridded o’ this woman?”

8. How has the old woman traveled to Coketown?

9. How long has Blackpool worked in Gradgrind’s factory?


(The entire section is 339 words.)

Book I, Chapter 13: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What object makes Stephen compare Rachael to the stars?

2. What item of Rachael’s clothing does Stephen kiss?

3. How many times does he kiss it?

4. What does Rachael break on the hearth?

5. Whose little sister is imagined to be among the angels?

6. The red finger marks on Rachael’s forehead are from what?

7. Who is the woman Stephen stands beside in church, in the “imaginary happiness” of his dream?

8. Which of the Ten Commandments would it seem Stephen sees and hears in his dream?

9. What time is it when Stephen and Rachael both wake?

10. During the whole of this chapter, what is...

(The entire section is 305 words.)

Book I, Chapters 14-15: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Of what aspects of Sissy’s performance in school does Mr. Gradgrind complain?

2. What does Dickens mean when he writes that Gradgrind has become “one of the respected members for ounce weights and measure, one of the deaf honorable gentlemen, dumb honorable gentlemen, blind honorable gentlemen, dead honorable gentlemen, to every other consideration”?

3. When does Louisa give her father the same look as the night she was found peeping at the circus?

4. When Tom says to his sister, “It would do me a great deal of good if you were to make up your mind to I know what, Loo. It would be a splendid thing for me. It would be uncommonly jolly!” what is he alluding...

(The entire section is 477 words.)

Book I, Chapter 16: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. The “deadly statistical recorder” in Gradgrind’s study refers to what?

2. When is Louisa, for the first time, a little shaken in the reserved composure she adopts on her wedding day?

3. What does Mrs. Sparsit prefer that Mr. Bounderby call the “terms” (salary) of her employment?

4. What sort of factual knowledge do the wedding guests bring to the Gradgrind-Bounderby wedding feast?

5. Mrs. Sparsit says she has long been under the necessity of “eating the bread of dependence”; what in fact is her favorite supper dish?

6. What precaution does Mr. Bounderby take before communicating to Mrs. Sparsit the news of his upcoming...

(The entire section is 366 words.)

Book II, Chapters 1-3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Dickens declare that Coketown’s very existence is a wonder?

2. What “fiction of Coketown” takes the form of a threat?

3. The Fairy Palaces, on hot days, have the atmosphere of a what?

4. After office hours in Bounderby’s bank, what room does Mrs. Sparsit like to sit in?

5. What does Mrs. Sparsit like to think of herself as, and what do people passing by Bounderby’s bank think of her as?

6. Bitzer shows himself to be an “excellent young economist” in what remarkable instance?

7. Why does Mrs. Sparsit exclaim, “O you fool!” to herself, after Harthouse has left the bank?

8. In the sentences...

(The entire section is 362 words.)

Book II, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does Dickens find notably lacking in the meeting of the Coketown workers?

2. The man who, in Slackbridge’s speech, “deserts his post, and sells his flag,” refers to whom?

3. A “strong voice” in the meeting hall calls for what?

4. Blackpool makes no complaint about being made into an outcast but asks that he be allowed just one thing. What thing is that?

5. Who during the meeting feels “more sorry than indignant” toward Blackpool?

6. What does Slackbridge, acting like “fugleman” (a drill sergeant) call for as soon as Stephen leaves the meeting hall?

7. What are Mr. Bounderby’s first words to Stephen, and...

(The entire section is 309 words.)

Book II, Chapter 6: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does the strange old woman come to be in Rachael’s company?

2. What do Stephen, Rachael, and the old woman have for their tea, and how does the meal fulfill the standard testimony of the Coketown magnates that “these people lived like princes, Sir”?

3. What name does the old lady give herself and what does she say about her son?

4. Early on in her visit, what potentially hurtful question does Louisa ask Stephen?

5. Louisa learns that her husband’s firing of Stephen will have what effect upon Stephen’s reputation?

6. What does Dickens say about the manner in which Stephen accepts Louisa’s offer of help?

7. What...

(The entire section is 411 words.)

Book II, Chapters 7-8: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. According to Mr. Harthouse, what is the only difference between the “hard Fact fellows” and their opponents, the “philanthropists” and “professors of virtue”?

2. What does Mr. Harthouse write to his brother soon after his arrival in Coketown?

3. What does Mr. Bounderby say were the only pictures in his possession as a youth?

4. Who is the previous owner of Bounderby’s summer house?

5. In the course of their conversation in the forest clearing, Louisa confides to Harthouse that she has been doing what for her brother, Tom?

6. What is Tom doing as he walks through the trees on Bounderby’s estate, not knowing that Harthouse and...

(The entire section is 385 words.)

Book II, Chapter 9: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Mrs. Sparsit always smoothing?

2. “Serve you right, you Noodle, and I am glad of it” is said by what character, and what does it mean?

3. The train to and from Bounderby’s country retreat passes over what kind of countryside?

4. Why does Dickens speak of Bitzer as a “fit servitor” at death’s door?

5. What “idol” has presided grimly over Louisa’s childhood?

6. Where is Mr. Gradgrind while his wife lies dying?

7. To whom has Louisa “never softened” since leaving home?

8. With what kind of feeling does Louisa go to see her mother?

9. With what “strange speech” does Mrs....

(The entire section is 276 words.)

Book II, Chapters 10-12: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Since when does Mrs. Sparsit complain of her nerves?

2. How does Harthouse describe Blackpool’s speech before Bounderby?

3. From the “House of Commons to the House of Corrections,” observes Mr. Harthouse, “there is a general profession of morality,” with, however, one exception. Which one is that?

4. The expression the “national cinder-heap” refers to what?

5. What rather odd piece of advice does Mrs. Sparsit give her employer?

6. In his study at Stone Lodge, Gradgrind is at work, “proving something.” What does Dickens suppose he is trying to prove?

7. When he hears a particularly loud clap of thunder from the...

(The entire section is 395 words.)

Book III, Chapters 1-2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. The title of Chapter 1 refers back to which other chapter title, and why?

2. At first Louisa has an impression that all the events of her life since leaving her childhood room are like what?

3. What does Louisa allow her sister to do?

4. What kind of look does Louisa’s father have on his face?

5. What does Gradgrind say about himself with special earnestness, and that Dickens gives him credit for believing?

6. What is the belief that Mr. Gradgrind says he has never shared but that now he must consider afresh?

7. Why does Harthouse keep ringing his bell all night for the hotel porter?

8. Where does Harthouse look for...

(The entire section is 362 words.)

Book III, Chapter 3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is it that Gradgrind is surprised Bounderby has missed?

2. Asked to speak, Mrs. Sparsit is reduced to what?

3. What does Mr. Bounderby call Mr. Harthouse?

4. What does Gradgrind entreat Bounderby, for his own sake and for Louisa’s?

5. When Bounderby learns where Louisa is, he demands what from Mrs. Sparsit?

6. What does Mr. Bounderby advise his housekeeper to do when she returns to the bank?

7. Bounderby takes offense at Gradgrind’s use of which common form of address?

8. According to Bounderby, what is the nature of the “incompatibility” between him and his wife?

9. Why does Bounderby declare...

(The entire section is 308 words.)

Book III, Chapters 4-5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Mr. Bounderby think that, as a “commercial wonder,” he is more admirable than Venus?

2. What sum is offered as reward for the arrest of Stephen Blackpool?

3. Why is the placard describing Blackpool being read aloud?

4. What resolution concerning Stephen Blackpool does Slackbridge propose?

5. What is young Tom doing while Bounderby pursues his investigations?

6. Why does Mrs. Sparsit cry out “It’s a coincidence! It’s a Providence!” when she spots Rachael and Sissy outside of Bounderby’s house?

7. What “pension” has Bounderby supplied his mother with, in return for her silence?

8. Why do...

(The entire section is 348 words.)

Book III, Chapter 6: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why do Sissy and Rachael, as they walk together in the countryside, avoid mounds of high grass?

2. Why do Sissy and Rachael not wish to look closely at Stephen’s hat?

3. How does Sissy get Rachael to stop screaming?

4. Who holds the watch that tells how long the men have been down the shaft?

5. What can “practiced eyes” tell about the action of the windlass the first time it is brought up?

6. Which of the pitmen is the first to inform the crowd of Stephen’s condition?

7. What has broken Stephen’s fall?

8. Where was Stephen headed to before he fell?

9. What is Stephen’s first utterance after he...

(The entire section is 319 words.)

Book III, Chapter 7: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. The title of Chapter 7, “Whelp-Hunting,” refers to whom?

2. What does Gradgrind do as soon as he returns home from seeing Stephen Blackpool at the Old Hell Shaft?

3. What does Gradgrind tell Bounderby it is his duty to do?

4. At the outset of the family conference called by Gradgrind to discuss what to do about his son, what does Louisa say to encourage her father?

5. “Ten thousand pounds could not effect it,” says Gradgrind. What is “it”?

6. Mr. Bounderby’s “bullying vein of public zeal” might lead him to do what?

7. Where has Sleary’s Horse-Riding set up?

8. Who sells the tickets for the circus?...

(The entire section is 364 words.)

Book III, Chapters 8-9: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. As he is confiding his plans to Sissy, what does Sleary call Bitzer?

2. What does Mr. Gradgrind say is his last chance to soften Bitzer?

3. The reappearance of Merrylegs immediately suggests what to Mr. Sleary?

4. What is it that Sleary says people can’t always be doing?

5. According to Mr. Sleary, a promise from Gradgrind to do what will more than balance his account with the circus?

6. How does Bounderby decide he can get the most glory out of his employment of his housekeeper?

7. What does Mrs. Sparsit ask Mr. Bounderby not to do as he begins to speak to her?

8. Mrs. Sparsit says the portrait of Mr. Bounderby has...

(The entire section is 271 words.)