Hard Times

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Mr. Bounderby is a pompous, arrogant, and successful factory owner who constantly boasts about how he is a self-made man (he isn't, it is later revealed). He is good friends with Mr. Gradgrind and lives with an elderly widow named Mrs. Sparsit until he marries Louisa Gradgrind, whom he has had his eye on since she was little. Selfish and blustering, he does not make Louisa happy, driving her to be emotionally vulnerable to James Harthouse's advances.

Josiah Bounderby Quotes in Hard Times

The Hard Times quotes below are all either spoken by Josiah Bounderby or refer to Josiah Bounderby. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fact vs. Fancy Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Hard Times published in 2001.
Book 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

‘You are quite another father to Louisa, sir.' Mrs Sparsit took a little more tea; and, as she bent her again contracted eyebrows over her steaming cup, rather looked as if her classical countenance were invoking the infernal gods.

Related Characters: Mrs. Sparsit (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind, Josiah Bounderby
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Josiah Bounderby is a powerful factory owner who lives with a widow named Mrs. Sparsit. Mrs. Sparsit and Bounderby discuss Gradgrind's decision to take in Sissy. At first, Mrs. Sparsit says that she dislikes the idea of Louisa, Gradgrind's daughter, associating with a "dirty," poor girl like Sissy. As the conversation goes on, though, Bounderby claims that he thinks of Louisa like another daughter--a statement that Sparsit claims to agree with, despite the fact that she clearly is jealous of Bounderby's interest in Louisa.

At this point in the novel, it's not clear that Mr. Bounderby is going to marry Louisa one day--and yet Dickens already gives us hints of their relationship. Sparsit seems jealous of Bounderby's closeness with Louisa, which is why, despite agreeing with him, she glares into her cup with the utmost severity. In all, Sparsit is presented as the rather flat, negative caricature of femininity--the spiteful, jilted lover who is jealous of other women and even demonic ("invoking the infernal gods") in her nature.

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Book 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

‘I wish I could collect all the Facts we hear so much about,' said Tom, spitefully setting his teeth, ‘and all the Figures, and all the people who found them out: and I wish I could put a thousand barrels of gunpowder under them, and blow them all up together! However, when I go to live with old Bounderby, I'll have my revenge.'

Related Characters: Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom) (speaker), Josiah Bounderby
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tom, still a young man, claims to be irritated with his father's emphasis on facts and figures--instead of accepting Gradgrind's example, he rebels, claiming that he would like to destroy all the facts that Gradgrind is obsessed with. The passage is a great example of how Utilitarianism can actually have an opposite effect on its pupils; i.e. instead of making its pupils efficient and hard-working, it just makes them miserable and soulless. (As we'll see later, Tom grows up to be a lazy, bitter man--hardly the image of efficiency and intelligence that Gradgrind had hoped for.)

The passage further complicates Tom's character by suggesting that Tom's only joy in life is manipulating other people--he seems to take pleasure in manipulating Mr. Bounderby (as we'll see, Bounderby has a crush on Louisa). It's as if Tom's upbringing has been so harsh and soulless that manipulating others is his only source of pleasure.

Book 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

‘Father,' said Louisa, ‘do you think I love Mr Bounderby?'

Mr. Gradgrind was extremely discomfited by this unexpected question. ‘Well, my child,' he returned, ‘I — really — cannot take upon myself to say.'

Related Characters: Thomas Gradgrind (speaker), Louisa Gradgrind (speaker), Josiah Bounderby
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, from the final pages of Book One, Louisa makes the crushing decision to marry Bounderby, a man she instinctively dislikes. Louisa goes to her father for help and advice, and finds that he's extremely unhelpful. Gradgrind has always trained Louisa to think of facts, not feelings. So when it comes time to decide whether or not to marry Bounderby, Louisa has no way of making a decision--there's simply no way that facts alone can decide a marriage. Gradgrind's weakness and incompetence is crystal-clear in this passage: he seems to acknowledge (albeit ten years too later) the hole in his education program. By focusing so exclusively on information, Gradgrind has impoverished his own soul, and left his two children lonely and repressed, without even a conception of what real love is (as this darkly humorous passage shows).

Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

‘You can finish off what you're at,' said Mr Bounderby, with a meaning nod, 'and then go elsewhere.'

‘Sir, yo know weel,' said Stephen expressively, ‘that if I canna get work wi' yo, I canna get it elsewheer.'

The reply was, ‘What I know, I know; and what you know, you know. I have no more to say about it.'

Related Characters: Josiah Bounderby (speaker), Stephen Blackpool (speaker)
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Bounderby fires Stephen for refusing to inform about the rising union in the factory. Stephen isn't an outspoken supporter of the union, but he's loyal enough to keep from "ratting" about the union to Bounderby. Bounderby callously tells Stephen that he can finish his work and leave the factory. Even after Stephen explains that he'll never be able to get another job after he's fired, Bounderby ignores him.

Bounderby, we can be pretty sure by now, is a heartless character. He thinks of his employees as animals, or cogs in a big machine--to be replaced at any time. Bounderby represents the dark side of the emphasis on facts and figures--because he's predisposed to think in terms of numbers, and therefore profits, he has no compunction about ruining Stephen's career, or even about viewing him as a real, suffering human being. 

Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

But from this day, the Sparsit action upon Mr Bounderby threw Louisa and James Harthouse more together, and strengthened the dangerous alienation from her husband and confidence against him with another, into which she had fallen by degrees so fine that she could not retrace them if she tried.

Related Characters: Louisa Gradgrind, Josiah Bounderby, Mrs. Sparsit, James Harthouse
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, a comical, tertiary character becomes villainous and critical to the plot of the novel. Mrs. Sparsit is jealous of the relationship between Louisa and Mr. Bounderby, and she resents the fact that she was kicked out of the house as soon as Bounderby married Louisa. To retaliate, Mrs. Sparsit tries to draw Louisa and Bounderby apart--thus, she tries to flatter Mr. Bounderby excessively, making him more conscious of Louisa's coldness. By the same token, Sparsit's flattery draws Louisa closer to James Harthouse.

The passage shows Mrs. Sparsit engaging in manipulation that's pretty obvious, at least from our perspective. Perhaps it's because Louisa is so unfamiliar with emotional matters that she can't see through what Mrs. Sparsit is trying to do, and thus falls for James.

Book 3, Chapter 3 Quotes

The blustrous Bounderby crimsoned and swelled to such an extent on hearing these words, that he seemed to be, and probably was, on the brink of a fit. With his very ears a bright purple shot with crimson, he pent up his indignation, however, and said…

Related Characters: Josiah Bounderby
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Bounderby confronts his old friend Mr. Gradgrind. He demands to know what's happened to Louisa. Calmly, Mr. Gradgrind explains that Louisa needs some time to herself--she's trapped in a loveless marriage to Bounderby, and needs to tend to her emotional side before she can return to Coketown. Bounderby is furious to hear such words form his old friend. His entire face convulses in rage and indignation.

Bounderby is furious with Gradgrind for a number of reasons. Gradgrind's speech to Bounderby about the importance of preserving the marriage echoes the speech that Bounderby gave to Stephen Blackpool about his own loveless marriage--the tables have turned. Furthermore, Bounderby seems furious with Gradgrind for focusing too strongly on emotions and the Heart, at the expense of facts and the Head. Gradgrind has "switched teams," and Bounderby is on his own. It goes almost without saying that watching Bounderby's ridiculous rage is extremely satisfying--he's a cruel, callous person, and now he's getting his comeuppance.

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Josiah Bounderby Character Timeline in Hard Times

The timeline below shows where the character Josiah Bounderby appears in Hard Times. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 3
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...Mr. Gradgrind just scolds them as he takes them home, and adds, "What would Mr. Bounderby say?" (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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Mr. Bounderby is described as a physically inflated, coarsely made man. He is standing in Stone Lodge,... (full context)
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...the circus, and indignantly exposes the misbehavior of his children to his wife and to Bounderby. The two men discuss what ought to be done, and Bounderby, discovering that Sissy Jupe... (full context)
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Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby set off for Coketown to confront the Jupes. As they leave, Mr. Bounderby plants a... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
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Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby stroll into industrial Coketown, once a red brick town but now discolored, having been blasted... (full context)
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On their way to the Jupes' home, Gradgrind and Bounderby collide with Sissy Jupe and Bitzer; Gradgrind finds, to his chagrin, that his star pupil... (full context)
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Mr. Bounderby is coarse and insensitive in the way he responds to this information and jeers at... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
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Sissy leads Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby into the pub, called the Pegasus's Arms, where she, her father, and the rest of... (full context)
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...dearly, because of his shame in his failure to earn their living. As Gradgrind and Bounderby discuss what they ought to do with this now father-less child (Gradgrind wants to take... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
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Mr. Bounderby returns to his own home, where he lives with a previously well-connected and elderly widow... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
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...for Tom, he expresses his discontent with life, and reveals that he sometimes manipulates Mr. Bounderby when Bounderby says something to him he doesn't like by commenting that Louisa wouldn't like... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 11
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...of other hands in the factory, Stephen pays a visit to the factory owner, Mr. Bounderby. Bounderby is home, eating a rich lunch and accompanied by Mrs. Sparsit. (full context)
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Stephen asks him if there is anything he can do to dissolve his unhappy marriage. Bounderby maintains that the law is the law, and that the sanctity of marriage must be... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 12
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As Stephen is walking away from Bounderby's house, he runs into an old, neatly-dressed woman who closely questions him as to Bounderby's... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 14
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...Sissy have grown into young women, and Tom is now a young man, apprenticed to Bounderby. Mr. Gradgrind's education of facts has not affected Sissy, who has acquired none of the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 15
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Mr. Gradgrind summons Louisa to his room, and informs her that Mr. Bounderby has asked for her hand in marriage. She doesn't react at first, then responds that... (full context)
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She then says she will marry Mr. Bounderby, which she knows is her father's wish. Taking her downstairs, Mr. Gradgrind announces the news... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 16
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Back at Mr. Bounderby's house, Bounderby is rather nervous as to how Mrs. Sparsit will take the news of... (full context)
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The day of the wedding comes, and Louisa and Mr. Bounderby are married. Tom thinks only of all the advantages he will gain by this marriage,... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
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...in Coketown, Mrs. Sparsit sits in her new living quarters attached to the Bank of Bounderby's factory, and chats Bitzer, now a young man and the Bank's porter. In their conversation,... (full context)
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...the door to admit a languid, well-dressed young gentleman who is trying to find Mr. Bounderby. Mrs. Sparsit is impressed by the man's manners and his flattery, and upon questioning, disdainfully... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2
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...bored out of his mind and hoping to find some distraction in working for Mr. Bounderby. It was James' brother who recommended that he go work for Bounderby, whom his brother... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
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...as a guise to extract information from him about Louisa. He learns that Louisa married Bounderby not out of love but for Tom's sake, to help him advance and to ensure... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
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Meanwhile, the workers at Bounderby's factory in Coketown have had enough of their bad working conditions. They meet in a... (full context)
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...four days, until Bitzer comes up to him and asks him to accompany him to Bounderby's house. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
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Stephen joins Mr. Bounderby, Louisa, Tom, and Mr. Harthouse in the Bounderbys' drawing room. Bounderby demands that Stephen reveal... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
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Stephen steps out of Mr. Bounderby's house into the dark evening, and runs into Rachael and the old woman he met... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
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Mr. Harthouse gets along well with Bounderby and the other "Hard Fact" fellows with his easy flattery, and begins to make headway... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8
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Riding home after a day of work, Harthouse encounters an upset Bounderby, who reveals that the Bank has been robbed! Only 150 pounds have been stolen, which... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
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Mrs. Sparsit stretches the few days she was supposed to spend in Bounderby's house quite a while longer, and continues to lavish so much attention on Mr. Bounderby... (full context)
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Shortly after Mr. Bounderby leaves for work, Bitzer brings Louisa a note telling her that her mother is dying.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 10
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Mrs. Sparsit continues to show excessive pity to Mr. Bounderby when he is present, and excessive contempt to his portrait when he is gone. Watching... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 11
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Mr. Bounderby informs Mrs. Sparsit that he will have to be away from home for three to... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
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...the night before, Mrs. Sparsit, filthy wet clothes and all, rushes to London, finds Mr. Bounderby, and tells him what she saw and what she concluded. Bounderby rather rudely throws her... (full context)
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Losing none of his bluster, Bounderby then demands of Mr. Gradgrind an explanation for his daughter's behavior. As Mr. Gradgrind hesitatingly... (full context)
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When Louisa does not appear at Bounderby's by noon the next day, Mr. Bounderby has his servants send back all her belongings... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
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Meanwhile, the robber of Bounderby's bank has not been found. Due to Mrs. Sparsit's and Bitzer's testimony, Stephen is the... (full context)
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Louisa is at Stone Lodge with Sissy when Mr. Bounderby, Tom, and Rachael call on them. This is no courtesy call: Rachael has been trying... (full context)
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Mr. Bounderby is skeptical of all of their claims, and angrily storms off, with Tom following after... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
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The two go for a walk around the town, and as they pass Mr. Bounderby's house, they see an excited Mrs. Sparsit pull up in a coach, accompanied by a... (full context)
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But Mrs. Sparsit and the gathered crowd are all excited when Mr. Bounderby reluctantly reveals that this lady is his own mother. Gradgrind then criticizes Mrs. Pegler for... (full context)
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...both suspect in their hearts that Tom was the bank robber. He has become Mr. Bounderby's shadow, and doesn't visit Louisa. Louisa begins to worry that maybe Tom killed Stephen. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 7
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...he spitefully blames her for the trouble he's in now—for leaving him alone with Mr. Bounderby, and for making his friend Mr. Harthouse leave town. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 9
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Back at Mr. Bounderby's home, things have come to a head between him and Mrs. Sparsit. Over lunch, they... (full context)
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...Sparsit spends the rest of her days taking care of a miserly old lady. Mr. Bounderby continues being the arrogant, blustery humbug he always was. Mr. Gradgrind remedies his ways and... (full context)