List of Characters
Thomas Gradgrind—a citizen of Coketown, proprietor of a model school, member of Parliament, father of Tom and Louisa.
Mrs. Gradgrind—Thomas Gradgrind’s ailing, complaining wife. She is a victim as much as her children to her husband’s regimen of Fact.
Tom Gradgrind—Thomas Gradgrind’s selfish, ne’er-do-well son, called “the whelp,” employed in Bounderby’s bank.
Louisa Gradgrind—Thomas Gradgrind’s eldest daughter. She is disastrously married to the much older industrialist Josiah Bounderby.
Mr. James Harthouse—a dilettante friend of Gradgrind’s. He makes love to Louisa.
Sissy (Cecilia) Jupe—a tender-hearted pupil at Gradgrind’s school.
Josiah Bounderby—a blustering mill owner and banker who boasts constantly of being a self-made man.
Mrs. Sparsit—a well-born, snobbish but impoverished widow. She is employed by Bounderby as his housekeeper.
Lady Scadgers—great aunt to Mrs. Sparsit.
Bitzer—a model pupil, employed by Bounderby as a porter (and informer). He hates Tom Gradgrind and tries to have him arrested for theft.
Mr. M’Choakumchild—an overzealous teacher in Gradgrind’s school.
Mr. Sleary—the owner and manager of “Sleary’s Horse-Riding,” a traveling circus.
Signor Jupe—Sissy’s father, a melancholy clown in Sleary’s Circus.
Josephine Sleary—Mr. Sleary’s daughter and a circus performer.
Mr. E.W.B. Childers—a performer who is the “Wild Huntsman of the North American Prairies” in Sleary’s Circus.
Master Kidderminster—Mr. Childers’ son and partner, “a diminutive boy with an old face.”
Mr. Slackbridge—the speechifying leader of Coketown’s factory operatives.
Stephen Blackpool—an honest factory hand. He is unhappily married, ostracized by Slackbridge and his fellow workers, and unjustly accused of robbery. He dies after falling down a disused mine shaft on his way back to Coketown.
Rachael—a factory hand. She is a friend to Stephen, whom he would have married had not the law prevented him from divorcing his fallen, drunken wife.
Stephen’s wife—an unnamed, drunken, sub-human woman.
Mrs. Pegler—a mysterious old woman from the country who turns out to be Bounderby’s mother.
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Thomas Gradgrind, a retired hardware merchant and the founder of an experimental school where only facts and proved scientific laws are taught. A firm believer that “two and two are four, and nothing over,” he is the father of five unhappy fact-finders and the husband of an ailing, dispirited woman quite worn out from the facts of life. While he is essentially a kind and good man, his excessive attention to the scientific and the practical and his total neglect of the imaginative and the speculative make him a kind of bumbling ogre. Through Gradgrind’s theories and activities, Dickens projects his sharp criticism of nineteenth century industry and culture.
Louisa Gradgrind, his older daughter, called Loo by her husband, a wealthy, elderly industrialist to whom she was married according to her father’s calculated mathematical theories. A sensible young woman, trained to have respect for hard facts by Mr. M’Choakumchild, master of the model school, she has no nonsense about her and therefore makes a proper wife for unsentimental and callous Josiah Bounderby. She cannot wonder, speculate, or love. Her two thwarted rebellions, an attempt in her girlhood to see a circus and a planned elopement from her unhappy marriage, fail because she lacks courage. Resisting the temptation to run away with another man, she returns to her father’s house and stays there when she cannot bring herself to return to her husband’s bed and board within the time limit he sets.
Thomas Gradgrind, the younger son. Although trained in the same school of hard facts, he is filled with melancholy and a lack of ambition that lead him to a determination to sample life’s vices. Loved and protected by his sister, he becomes a drunkard, a sensualist, and finally a thief, stealing one hundred and fifty pounds from his brother-in-law’s bank, where he is employed as a clerk. For a time, he is able to throw suspicion on an innocent man, but eventually his guilt is revealed. Easily led, he accepts the overtures of cynical James Harthouse, who uses the relationship of weak brother and protective sister as a wedge in his attempted seduction of Louisa. Tom is given another chance to face the facts, something he has rebelled against, when his sister and Sissy Jupe give him an opportunity to flee the country, away from Bounderby’s wrath and the law’s long arm.
Adam Smith Gradgrind
Adam Smith Gradgrind, and
Jane Gradgrind, the other Gradgrind children, all victims of their father’s harsh training....
(The entire section is 1123 words.)