Having made a small fortune as a hardware merchant before becoming a teacher, Gradgrind starts his journey the very personification of capitalism at a time when acquisition was society’s key motive. But, like many of Dickens’s most hard-boiled characters, he undergoes quite a change: after becoming an MP towards the end of the book, his daughter, Louisa, bemoaning her joyless upbringing, forces her parochial father to finally change his narrow-minded ways. The book ends with Gradgrind doing ‘a Scrooge’, albeit minus the literary publicity.


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