Having been a teacher, I find Mr Gradgrind to be a hilarious figure. He preaches the virtues of facts to children who wish to find fantasy in an imagined Victorian Northern industrial town. I find this book interesting in that Dickens has not based the town in reality like so many of his books. There is a lot to appreciate in this; the town is hard, sooty but polluted with the sense of a fairy-tale (a circus is on the fringe of the banal.) It feels quite different for a Dickens story, as if he wanted to write something quite imaginative and then visited the North and got frightened.