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Hard Times | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the main characters in Charles Dickens's novel Hard Times.

Hard Times | Characters

Character Description
Louisa Gradgrind Lousia Gradgrind is an obedient and generally passive young woman whose belief in, or refusal to question, her father's philosophy of pure reason leads her into a loveless marriage and an eventual mental breakdown. Read More
Mr. Bounderby Josiah Bounderby, a wealthy factory owner and bank owner in Coketown, claims to have raised himself from nothing to his current position of power and influence. Read More
Mr. Gradgrind Mr. Thomas Gradgrind is a schoolmaster of some wealth who believes the understanding of all facts and the application of pure reason will result in a happy and prosperous life. Read More
Tom Gradgrind The oldest Gradgrind child, Tom Gradgrind, resents his limited education and job at the bank. He spends most of his adult life expecting Louisa to bail him out of the trouble he causes himself. Read More
Sissy Jupe Abandoned for a good reason by her father, a circus performer, Sissy Jupe is taken into the Gradgrind family to care for Mrs. Gradgrind and attend school. The Gradgrinds believe they have saved Sissy, but she saves them as well. Read More
Stephen Blackpool A poor factory worker trapped in a miserable marriage, Stephen Blackpool runs afoul of Mr. Bounderby, is forced to leave town, and is falsely accused of robbery. Read More
Mrs. Sparsit Described as having a classical face and heavy, dark eyebrows, Mrs. Sparsit is Mr. Bounderby's highly born housekeeper and companion until he marries Louisa Gradgrind, whom Mrs. Sparsit resents for displacing her. Read More
Bitzer An unpleasant schoolmate of Sissy Jupe, Louisa, and Tom, Bitzer learns facts well and grows up to have ambitions at the bank, exposing Tom in the hope of obtaining his position.
Mrs. Blackpool Mrs. Blackpool is Stephen Blackpool's alcoholic and abusive wife, who leaves home for long periods of time and returns only when she is too ill to stay away.
Mr. E.W.B. Childers An accomplished master of horseback riding, Mr. E.W.B. Childers is a principal member of Mr. Sleary's circus.
Emma Gordon Emma Gordon is the pregnant circus performer who comforts Sissy Jupe when Sissy learns her father has left her.
Mrs. Gradgrind A timid supporter of her husband's educational principles, Mrs. Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind's sickly wife and mother of Louisa, Tom, and their siblings.
Adam Smith Gradgrind Adam Smith Gradgrind is a younger brother of Louisa and Tom, named for the economist who endorsed free-enterprise capitalism, in which markets are left essentially to manage themselves.
Jane Gradgrind Jane Gradgrind is the youngest Gradgrind child who, under Sissy's influence, grows up softer and more emotionally mature than Louisa.
Malthus Gradgrind Malthus is the fourth Gradgrind child, named for Thomas Malthus, the philosopher who cautioned against overpopulation and believed poverty to be inescapable.
Hands Treated as a single unit by Mr. Bounderby and others, the Hands are the faceless masses of workers who labor in the factories of Coketown.
James Harthouse James Harthouse is a wealthy young man who comes to Coketown to teach in Mr. Gradgrind's school and attempts to seduce Louisa to relieve his boredom with life.
Mr. Jupe Mr. Jupe, a horse-riding circus clown, abandons his daughter, Sissy, so she might receive an education and live a better life, as his health and ability to perform begin to fail.
Master Kidderminster Master Kidderminster performs as Cupid, among other roles, in the circus acts and has a crush on young Sissy Jupe.
Mr. M'Choakumchild Mr. M'Choakumchild is the teacher who runs Mr. Gradgrind's school with strict adherence to factual information and reasoned thinking.
Merrylegs Merrylegs is Mr. Jupe's dog who, in his own old age, returns to the circus looking for Sissy after his master dies.
Mrs. Pegler A mysterious woman who comes to Coketown once a year and watches Mr. Bounderby's home from afar, Mrs. Pegler is actually Mr. Bounderby's hard-working, middle-class mother, whom he has treated poorly.
Rachael A longtime friend of Stephen Blackpool and his wife, Rachael is the kind, devoted, generous woman Stephen loves but cannot marry.
Lady Scadgers Lady Scadgers, who overeats, has remained bedridden for 14 years, and who arranged the Sparsits' marriage, is Mrs. Sparsit's only relative; she and Mrs. Sparsit do not get along well.
Slackbridge Slackbridge is a union organizer who ostracizes Stephen Blackpool from the Coketown workforce when Stephen refuses to join the union.
Mr. Sleary Kind-hearted, asthmatic, lisping owner of the circus, Mr. Sleary offers Sissy Jupe an apprenticeship when her father leaves; he later helps her save Tom Gradgrind's life for a time.
Josephine Sleary Mr. Sleary's fair-haired daughter and rider in the circus, Josephine Sleary has ridden horses since she was tied to one at two years of age.
Mr. Sparsit Mr. Sparsit is Mrs. Sparsit's dead husband, most notable because the brief marriage left Mrs. Sparsit without money but with social connections; 15 years her junior, he lost his money by gambling and drinking.
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