Hard Times Character and Theme Quotes
by Charles Dickens

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Essential Quotes by Character: Louisa Gradgrind Bounderby

Essential Passage 1: Book 1, Chapter 3

“In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!” said Mr. Gradgrind, leading each away by a hand; “What do you do here?”
“Wanted to see what it was like,” returned Louisa shortly.
“What it was like?”
“Yes, father.”
There was an air of jaded sullenness in both, and particularly in the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its expression. Not with the brightness natural to cheerful youth, but with uncertain, eager, doubtful flashes, which had something painful in them, analogous to the changes in a blind face groping its way.
She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen; but no distant day would seem to become a woman all at once. Her father thought so as he looked at her. She was pretty. Would have been self-willed (he thought in his eminently practical way), but for her bringing-up.


Louisa and her brother, Thomas, were raised by her father, Mr. Gradgrind, according to the strict tenants of his philosophy of pragmatism, rationality, and realism. All he wanted was facts, with no room for fancy or imagination. Louisa, however, resisted this upbringing. One day, when accompanied by her equally incorrigible brother Thomas, they stopped to peek through a fence at a circus, where Sissy Jupe’s father worked as a clown. Coming upon them as he returned home, Mr. Gradgrind was shocked that they would stoop to an interest in so fanciful thing as a circus. Louisa, a young girl on the verge of womanhood, stood her ground against her father’s ire. The struggle between her father’s teachings and her own personality is evident in her “jaded sullenness.” She resents the focus on “facts” at the expense of enjoyment and imagination. She is indeed self-willed, despite her father’s beliefs to the contrary. This is an early hint at the inner struggle Louisa will face as a woman, in her marriage and in her relationships with her brother and her father.

Essential Passage 2: Book 2, Chapter 6

For the first time in her life, Louisa had come into one of the dwellings of the Coketown Hands; for the first time in her life, she was face to face with anything like individuality in connexion with them. She knew of their existence by hundreds and by thousands. She knew what results in work a given number of them would produce, in a given space of time. She knew them in crowds passing to and from their nests, like ants or beetles. But she knew from her reading infinitely more of the ways of toiling insects than of these toiling men and women.


Stephen Blackpool, an employee at the local mill, has stood up against the mill owners yet will not join the union. He believes it is wrong to make demands of the owners and against the workers’ common good. Slackbridge, the union organizer, warns Blackpool to join or else face ostracism. Blackpool, not to be bullied by either side, walks out of the union hall and returns to his home. He defends his actions to Bounderby, who criticizes him for refusing to speak against his fellow workers. Later, Louisa comes to his residence to speak to him. She remarks to herself that this is the first time she has actually seen a worker’s daily life and abode. Before, the particulars of others’ circumstances were just facts, such as her father taught her to believe. She at last sees the workers as individuals, with lost hopes and dreams like her own. Louisa regrets how much she has lost by not being aware of others whose conditions are different from her own.

Essential Passage 3: Book 3, Chapter 1

“But,” said Mr. Gradgrind, slowly, and with hesitation, as well as with a wretched sense of helplessness, “if I see reason to mistrust myself for the past, Louisa, I should mistrust myself for the present and the future. To speak unreservedly to you, I do. I am far from feeling convinced now,...

(The entire section is 3,090 words.)