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Thomas Gradgrind is the guiding luminary of the Coketown school, stern proponent of the Philosophy of Fact, whose ill-conceived idealism blinds him to the essential humanity of those around him, with calamitous results. His daughter Louisa becomes trapped in a loveless marriage and falls prey to an idle seducer, and her brother Tom is ruined thanks to their father's pet theories. Meanwhile Sleary's circus offers a vision of escape and entertainment, a joyful contrast to the dreariness of life in Coketown. The hardship of the workers and the victimization of Stephen Blackpool are set against the exuberance of the circus people in Dickens's much-loved moral tale. Gradgrind is forced to reconsider his cherished system when he realizes that 'Facts alone' are not, after all, enough.