Hard Times Characters

The main characters in Hard Times include Thomas Gradgrind, Tom Gradgrind, Louisa Gradgrind, Sissy Jupe, and Josiah Bounderby.

  • Thomas Gradgrind is the Utilitarian founder of an experimental school in Coketown and a member of Parliament.
  • Tom Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind’s son, who robs a bank but escapes the law.
  • Louisa Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind’s daughter, who enters into a loveless marriage with Josiah Bounderby.
  • Sissy Jupe is the daughter of a circus performer who is educated at Thomas Gradgrind’s school.
  • Josiah Bounderby is a wealthy industrialist and Thomas Gradgrind’s friend.

List of Characters

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Last Updated on February 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 406

Thomas Gradgrind

Gradgrind is a citizen of Coketown, the proprietor of a model school, a member of Parliament, and the father of Tom and Louisa.

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Mrs. Gradgrind

Mrs. Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind’s ailing, complaining wife. She is a victim as much as her children to her husband’s regimen of Fact.

Tom Gradgrind

Tom is Thomas Gradgrind’s selfish, ne’er-do-well son, called “the whelp” and employed in Bounderby’s bank.

Louisa Gradgrind

Louisa is Thomas Gradgrind’s eldest daughter. She is disastrously married to the much older industrialist Josiah Bounderby.

Mr. James Harthouse

Harthouse is a dilettante friend of Gradgrind’s. He professes his love to Louisa.

Sissy (Cecilia) Jupe

Sissy Jupe is a tenderhearted pupil at Gradgrind’s school.

Josiah Bounderby

Bounderby is a blustering mill owner and banker who boasts constantly of being a self-made man.

Mrs. Sparsit

Mrs. Sparsit is a well-born, snobbish, but impoverished widow. She is employed by Bounderby as his housekeeper.

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Lady Scadgers

Lady Scadgers is great-aunt to Mrs. Sparsit.

Bitzer

Bitzer is 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

Mr. M'Choakumchild is an overzealous teacher in Gradgrind’s school.

Mr. Sleary

Mr. Sleary is the owner and manager of “Sleary’s Horse-Riding,” a traveling circus.

Signor Jupe

Signor Jupe is Sissy’s father, a melancholy clown in Sleary’s Circus.

Josephine Sleary

Josephine Sleary is Mr. Sleary’s daughter and a circus performer.

Mr. E. W. B. Childers

Childers is a performer who is the “Wild Huntsman of the North American Prairies” in Sleary’s Circus.

Master Kidderminster

Master Kidderminster is Mr. Childers’s son and partner, “a diminutive boy with an old face.”

Mr. Slackbridge

Mr. Slackbridge is the speechifying leader of Coketown’s factory operatives.

Stephen Blackpool

Stephen Blackpool is 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

Rachael is 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

Stephen’s wife is an unnamed, drunken, subhuman woman.

Mrs. Pegler

Mrs. Pegler is a mysterious old woman from the country who turns out to be Bounderby’s mother.

Characters Discussed

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Thomas Gradgrind

Thomas Gradgrind is 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

Louisa Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind’s 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.

Tom Gradgrind

Tom Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind’s son and Louisa’s younger brother. 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 150 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.

Malthus Gradgrind, Adam Smith Gradgrind, and Jane Gradgrind

Malthus Gradgrind, Adam Smith Gradgrind, and Jane Gradgrind are the other Gradgrind children, all victims of their father’s harsh training.

Josiah Bounderby

Josiah Bounderby, a wealthy industrialist, is Thomas Gradgrind’s friend and Louisa’s husband. The owner of a Coketown (Manchester) factory, he is exceedingly proud of the fact that he is a self-made man. He advises Mr. Gradgrind against taking Sissy Jupe into his home or allowing her to attend the experimental school. In the end, he loses his wife and the respect of his friends—everything but his money.

Cecilia Jupe

Cecilia Jupe, called Sissy, is the daughter of a circus clown. Deserted by her father, she grows up in the Gradgrind home, a companion to Louisa. Unsuccessful in learning facts, she is constantly forced to face them and is turned from her foster home to work in Bounderby’s factory. A sensitive, loving girl, she is convinced that her father has not abandoned her, that the Gradgrinds have been generous, and that people are generally trustworthy. She proves her own trust by supporting confused Louisa, persuading Harthouse to leave the neighborhood, and helping Tom Gradgrind escape from the law.

James Harthouse

James Harthouse is a cynical political aspirant and a shrewd observer of human nature and behavior. Handsome, smooth-spoken, he attempts the seduction of lonely, unloved Louisa. Sissy Jupe saves her friend from folly when she visits the young politician and persuades him the planned elopement would bring unhappiness to all concerned, including himself.

Mrs. Sparsit

Mrs. Sparsit is a woman of aristocratic pretensions and closed mind, formerly Bounderby’s housekeeper. Deposed from her position of authority after his marriage, she embarrasses the self-made industrialist by producing his respectable mother and thus proving that his story of his rise from rags to riches is a hoax.

Mrs. Pegler

Mrs. Pegler, the mother of Josiah Bounderby, is a figure of mystery after her appearance in Coketown. The truth, finally revealed, is that she had reared her son in modest but comfortable circumstances and given him an education. Ashamed of his real background, the son has paid her a pension to stay away from him so that she cannot disprove his story that he lifted himself from the gutter.

Stephen Blackpool

Stephen Blackpool is a poor, honest weaver in Bounderby’s factory. The victim of a drunken wife and the factory system, his life is a hard one. During a labor disturbance at the factory, he refuses to join the rebellious workers or to side with his employer. Discharged, he leaves Coketown to look for work elsewhere. During his absence, he is accused of the robbery committed by Tom Gradgrind. Louisa and Sissy find him in an abandoned mine shaft, into which he had fallen while returning to prove his innocence. He is brought to the surface alive but severely injured, and he dies soon afterward.

Mrs. Blackpool

Mrs. Blackpool, Stephen’s wife, is a confirmed drunkard.

Rachael

Rachael, a worker in Bounderby’s factory, is hopelessly in love with Stephen Blackpool.

Bitzer

Bitzer is a typical product of Mr. Gradgrind’s school. Acting as Bounderby’s agent, he tracks down Tom Gradgrind and arrests him, only to lose the culprit when Tom makes his escape with the aid of a circus owner, a performer, a trained dog, and a dancing horse.

Mr. M’Choakumchild

Mr. M’Choakumchild, the master of Mr. Gradgrind’s model school, is also a believer that facts are facts.

Mr. Sleary

Mr. Sleary is the proprietor of a circus troupe. A friend of Sissy Jupe, he helps Tom Gradgrind to flee the country.

E. W. B. Childers

E. W. B. Childers is a circus performer billed as “The Wild Huntsman of the North American Prairies.” He aids Mr. Sleary in the plan for Tom Gradgrind’s escape from Bitzer.

Emma Gordon

Emma Gordon is Sissy Jupe’s friend and a member of the circus troupe.

Master Kidderminster

Master Kidderminster, a young boy with a strangely aged face, is the member of the circus troupe who assists E. W. B. Childers in his high-vaulting act.

Josephine Sleary

Josephine Sleary is the lovely daughter of the circus proprietor.

Slackbridge

Slackbridge is a trade union organizer.

Lady Scadgers

Lady Scadgers is the eccentric, incredibly obese, bedridden aunt of Mrs. Sparsit.

Signor Jupe

Signor Jupe is the circus clown who deserts his daughter.

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