Hard Times


Charles Dickens

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Hard Times can help.

Thomas Gradgrind

Mr. Gradgrind is a school superintendent who promotes an education based on facts alone (no talk of imagination or emotions, please) and later becomes a Member of Parliament. His two eldest children, Louisa and Tom(read full character analysis)

Louisa Gradgrind

Louisa, Mr. Gradgrind's eldest daughter, could be said to be the protagonist of the book. From a young age she resents the education of facts, which she finds thoroughly unenjoyable and which represses her… (read full character analysis)

Thomas Gradgrind, Jr. (Tom)

Tom, the second oldest Gradgrind child, fares worse than Louisa in that his character is almost irrevocably deformed by his education of facts. He turns into a grumpy, sulky young man who ends up robbing… (read full character analysis)

Josiah Bounderby

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… (read full character analysis)

Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe

The daughter of a circus performer, Sissy's background is of the lowest quality, but her imagination and her heart are of the highest, thanks to her father's care when she was little. This father does… (read full character analysis)
Get the entire Hard Times LitChart as a printable PDF.

Mrs. Sparsit

An old widow with a Roman nose and a classical countenance, Mrs. Sparsit keeps Mr. Bounderby company before he is married. Jealous at being driven out by Louisa, she watches with glee as the… (read full character analysis)

Stephen Blackpool

A poor worker at Mr. Bounderby's factory, Stephen is a victim both of the industrial system and of society's restrictions on marriage. His face and body are much aged because of the grueling work… (read full character analysis)


Rachael is a good, gentle woman who works at Bounderby's factory with Stephen and who is Stephen's best friend and only consolation in the hard times he goes through. She helps Stephen care for… (read full character analysis)

James Harthouse

A young, wealthy London gentleman, Mr. Harthouse is as bored and as pleasing as most men of his class tend to be, and he bends all his powers of pleasing and persuasion in trying to… (read full character analysis)

Mrs. Pegler

Mrs. Pegler is Mr. Bounderby's mother who took as much care of her son as the most loving mothers of the world ever did. Mr. Bounderby, who wishes to perpetuate the story that he… (read full character analysis)


An oily, manipulative orator who rouses the workers to rebel and unionize against Mr. Bounderby, Slackbridge is also responsible for Stephen's alienation from all the other factory workers when Stephen refuses to join… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Mr. Sleary
Mr. Sleary is the proprietor of the circus of which Signore Jupe and his daughter, Sissy, were a member. He is a good-hearted man and helps the Gradgrinds smuggle Tom out of England when it's discovered that he is the bank robber.
Bitzer is a model pupil of Mr. Gradgrind's education of facts; later, he becomes the porter of Mr. Bounderby's Bank. Cold-hearted and analytical, he almost prevents Tom from leaving England to escape his crime.
Mr. McChoakumchild
McChoakumchild is a schoolmaster at one of Mr. Gradgrind's schools of fact.
Mrs. Gradgrind
The feeble, infirm wife of Mr. Gradgrind, she spends most of her days in a chair by the fire, pettishly telling her children to follow their father's system of facts…until, as she lies dying, she realizes that there was something missing in her and their lives.
Jane Gradgrind
Jane is the youngest sister of Louisa and Tom, who only appears in the later chapters of the book. Due to the influence of Sissy once Tom and Louisa have left home, Jane grows up to be a much sweeter and gentler girl than Louisa ever was.
Signore Jupe
Sissy's father, who abandons her out of shame for not being able to support her.
Mr. E. W. B. Childers
A circus performer.
Mr. Kidderminster
A circus performer.