Also known as Sissy, Cecilia Jupe is the daughter of a horsebreaker and grows up surrounded by the whimsy of the circus. She is innocent and earnest even as a child, and while these qualities allow her to feel at home among the traveling circus performers, they make it difficult for her to fit in with the other children at Mr. Gradgrind’s school. This contrast between Sissy’s natural demeanor and the gloomy attitudes of Louisa and Tom allows her to act as a foil character, particularly for Louisa, throughout the novel. Dickens uses this dynamic to illustrate his thematic argument about the importance of balancing both fact and fancy, and he ultimately advocates for her caring worldview by rewarding her with a joyful fate at the novel’s end. Before she grows into and embraces her benevolent nature, however, Sissy spends her childhood unsuccessfully attempting to adopt the Gradgrind philosophy. She believes that by furthering her education, she will fulfill her father’s wishes. The connection she feels to her father, especially after he abandons her, represents the hopeful quality that prevents her from fitting into Mr. Gradgrind’s cut-and-dry worldview. Sissy never stops believing that her father will return to her, and this “fancy” enables her to endure the otherwise bleak life she leads as a poor student and Mrs. Gradgrind’s underappreciated caregiver. 

Sissy reenters the novel in a significant capacity when Louisa returns home to reject her father’s teachings, and she shows Louisa what true compassion and support look like. Having taken on the role of a mother figure for the younger Gradgrind children, she readily expresses her love for Louisa after she admits to her recent struggles with Mr. Bounderby and Mr. Harthouse. The fact that Louisa once regarded her with contempt does not diminish Sissy’s sympathy for her or deter her from offering assistance, and this attitude reflects the strength of her moral character. Her willingness to act for the benefit of others is ultimately what drives many of the narrative’s remaining events. Sissy convinces Mr. Harthouse to leave Louisa alone, she comforts Rachael through the loss of her beloved Stephen, and she calls upon her connections at the circus to guide Tom to safety abroad. Due to her selfless acts of service, Dickens rewards her with the happiest fate out of all the primary characters. She becomes a beloved wife and mother, two roles which cement her identity as the embodiment of Victorian femininity. Through her character, Dickens suggests that love and compassion have the power to save people like the Gradgrinds from industrialism’s immoral and dehumanizing nature.