“Is it possible, I wonder, that there was any analogy between the case of the Coketown population and the case of the little Gradgrinds?”  

 In Book One, Chapter 5, the narrator offers this rhetorical question and, in doing so, suggests that the struggle of the Gradgrind children to accept a fact-based way of life is an allegory for the plight of Coketown’s workers at large. Just as the children lack hope and happiness as a result of their strict education, the monotony of their daily, unfulfilling toil makes it virtually impossible for the working class to experience life’s joys. This parallel invites the reader to view 19th-century London in similar terms. 

“Herein lay the spring of the mechanical art and mystery of educating the reason without stooping to the cultivation of the sentiments and affections. Never wonder. By means of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, settle everything somehow, and never wonder. Bring to me, says M’Choakumchild, yonder baby just able to walk, and I will engage that it shall never wonder.”

Dickens begins Book One, Chapter 8 by explaining that the inability to “wonder” prevents people of all ages from becoming fully developed individuals. This quotation emphasizes the binary relationship between fact and fancy and suggests that wondering is what enables the mind to accept both. Restricting this open-mindedness from a young age makes it possible for teachers like Mr. McChoakumchild to disguise certain perspectives and ideas as facts that students adopt without question. 

‘How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, O father, what have you done, with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here!’

In Book Two, Chapter 12, Louisa returns home and rebukes her father for the heartless and stifling worldview that he imposed upon her as a young girl. She explains that “the sentiments of [her] heart” would have made her life bearable, but without them, she exists in a “state of conscious death.” This quotation emphasizes the importance of hope and imagination as they work to counteract the harshness of life’s realities. With her passionate argument in support of fancy, Louisa is ultimately able to convince her father to change his fact-based ways and adopt a more balanced worldview.