Hard Times Characters

This list of Hard Times Characters is presented in alphabetical order.

Last Updated on July 7, 2022

Hard Times was Dickens’s tenth novel. It first appeared in Dickens’s weekly periodical, Household Words. It was published in installments that began in April of 1854 and ran through August of that year.

Note: Includes spoilers!

Bitzer is the star student at Mr. Gradgrind’s school. He goes on to work at Bounderby’s bank.

He held the respectable office of general spy and informer in the establishment, for which volunteer service he received a present at Christmas, over and above his weekly wage.  He had grown into an extremely clear-headed, cautious, prudent young man, who was safe to rise in the world.  His mind was so exactly regulated, that he had no affections or passions.  All his proceedings were the result of the nicest and coldest calculation.

Stephen “Old Stephen” Blackpool is a worker in Bounderby’s mill. 

The lights in the great factories, which looked, when they were illuminated, like Fairy palaces—or the travellers by express-train said so—were all extinguished; and the bells had rung for knocking off for the night, and had ceased again; and the Hands, men and women, boy and girl, were clattering home.

Blackpool’s wife is an alcoholic and he hopes to end the marriage.  Blackpool wants to be free of his first marriage so that he can marry Rachel, another worker at the mill.

Later in the book, Blackpool is suspected of robbing the bank.

In the end, Stephen Blackpool falls into an empty mineshaft.  He’s rescued but dies while being transported to town.

Stephen Blackpool - Hard Times

Stephen Blackpool being rescued from the mine shaft (image by Fred Walker)

It is said that every life has its roses and thorns; there seemed, however, to have been a misadventure or mistake in Stephen’s case, whereby somebody else had become possessed of his roses, and he had become possessed of the same somebody else’s thorns in addition to his own.

Josiah Bounderby is a close friend of Mr. Gradgrind. He’s wealthy and owns a factory.    

He promotes himself as being a self-made man.  However, when his mother (Mrs. Pegler) is discovered his story is proven false.

He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not. A big, loud man, with a stare, and a metallic laugh. A man made out of a coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up. A man with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a balloon, and ready to start. A man who could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of humility.

Louisa Bounderby – See Louisa Gradgrind.

Adam Smith Gradgrind is the son of Thomas Gradgrind.

Jane Gradgrind is the youngest daughter of Thomas Gradgrind.

Louisa Gradgrind is the daughter of Thomas Gradgrind. Her father arranges a marriage for her with Bounderby. 

Harthouse urgers her to run away with him.  She flees to her father’s home.  Her father’s heart begins to soften.

Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe

Louisa Gradgrind and Sissy Jupe in Hard Times

“How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death?”

Malthus Gradgrind is the son of Thomas Gradgrind.

Thomas Gradgrind is the school superintendent.  The school stresses facts and figures.  However, he has a change of heart at the end of the novel.

Gradgrind - Hard Times

Mr. Gradgrind, image by Harry Furniss

“NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!” 

Thomas “Tom” Gradgrind is the son of Thomas Gradgrind.  He’s referred to as “the whelp” in the novel.

Tom is apprenticed to Bounderby after finishing school. 

Sadly, Tom takes to gambling.  He robs Bounderby’s bank to pay his debts.

It was very remarkable that a young gentleman who had been brought up under one continuous system of unnatural restraint, should be a hypocrite; but it was certainly the case with Tom.  It was very strange that a young gentleman who had never been left to his own guidance for five consecutive minutes, should be incapable at last of governing himself; but so it was with Tom.  It was altogether unaccountable that a young gentleman whose imagination had been strangled in his cradle, should be still inconvenienced by its ghost in the form of grovelling sensualities; but such a monster, beyond all doubt, was Tom.

James Harthouse has hopes of going into Parliament.  He is a frequent visitor at the Bounderby household. He urges Louisa (Gradgrind) Bounderby to run away with him.

Harthouse and Tom - Hard Times

James Harthouse and Tom Gradgrind, image by Fred Walker

When the Devil goeth about like a roaring lion, he goeth about in a shape by which few but savages and hunters are attracted. But, when he is trimmed, smoothed, and varnished, according to the mode; when he is aweary of vice, and aweary of virtue, used up as to brimstone, and used up as to bliss; then, whether he take to the serving out of red tape, or to the kindling of red fire, he is the very Devil. 

Cecilia “Sissy” Jupe is a student at Mr. Gradrind’s shool.  Her father, who works in a circus, abandons her in hopes that she’ll have a better life without him.  Sissy chooses to remain at the school and work for Mrs. Gradgrind. 

Signor Jupe is the father of Sissy Jupe.  He works as a circus clown with his dog, Merrylegs.

Mrs. Pegler is revealed to be Bounderby’s mother.

Slackbridge tries to unionize the workers of Coketown. 

Mr. Sleary is the manager of the circus. 

Mrs. Sparsit is the housekeeper of Mr. Bounderby.

She was a most wonderful woman for prowling about the house. How she got from story to story was a mystery beyond solution. A lady so decorous in herself, and so highly connected, was not to be suspected of dropping over the banisters or sliding down them, yet her extraordinary facility of locomotion suggested the wild idea. 

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