Hard Times

Hard Times Character List


Bitzer is a classmate of Tom, Louisa and Sissy. As a young adult he works as a clerk in Bounderby's bank and he unsuccessfully apprehends Tom as the thief.

Stephen Blackpool

Stephen is a poor laborer in one of Josiah Bounderby's factories. He is married to a drunk woman who wanders in and out of his life. After losing his job at the factory, Stephen is forced to leave Coketown and find work elsewhere. In his absence, Stephen is accused of committing a crime that he did not actually commit. When returning to Coketown to defend his honor, Stephen falls into a pit and injures himself. He is rescued but he eventually dies.

Mr. Josiah Bounderby

Mr. Bounderby is one of the central characters of the novel. He is a business acquaintance of Mr. Thomas Gradgrind. He employs many of the characters in the novel and he is very wealthy. He marries Louisa Gradgrind (several decades his junior) and the marriage eventually ends unhappily. In the tumult of a bank robbery investigation, Bounderby's true identity is revealed much to his shame. Throughout the novel, Bounderby is an emblem of hypocrisy.

Louisa Gradgrind/Louisa Bounderby

Louisa is one of the central characters of the novel. She is the eldest of the Gradgrind children and the prize pupil of the educational system. When she grows older, her father arranges her marriage to Mr. Bounderby. Throughout her life, Louisa is very unfulfilled because she has been forced to deny her emotions. She has an emotional breakdown after being tempted into infidelity by Mr. Harthouse. Her marriage with Mr. Bounderby is soon dissolved and she never remarries.

Mr. Thomas Gradgrind

Mr. Gradgrind is the intellectual founder of the Gradgrind educational system and he is also a member of Parliament. He represents the rigor of "hard facts" and statistics. It is only after Louisa's emotional breakdown that he has a change of heart and becomes more intellectually accepting of enterprises that are not exclusively dedicated to profit and fact.

Mrs. Gradgrind

Mrs. Gradgrind is the ignorant wife of Thomas Gradgrind and the mother of Louisa, Tom and the other Gradgrind children. She dies in the middle of the novel.

Jane and Adam Smith Gradgrind

The younger children of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind. They are better off than Tom and Louisa because Sissy Jupe has assisted in their upbringing.

Tom Gradgrind

Tom is also referred to as "the whelp." He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind and an employee of Mr. Bounderby. He is resentful towards his sister, Louisa, though she is only kind towards him. His ultimate misdeed comes when he steals money from his safe in the bank and then announces the loss as a true theft. In the end, Tom is forced to flee the country to escape punishment. He dies overseas and full of regret.

James "Jem" Harthouse

The younger brother of a member of Parliament, Harthouse has agreed to spend some time teaching in the Gradgrind's school. He is lazy and immodest and finds himself tempting Louisa with offers of romance.

Cecilia "Sissy" Jupe

Sissy is abandoned by her father who is a well-meaning circus performer. He feels that she will have a better life if he is not able to hinder her progress in society. Sissy lives with the Gradgrind family but she is a poor pupil at their school. In contrast to Mr. Gradgrind, Sissy lives by the philosophy of emotion, fancy, hope and benevolence. In the end, her kindhearted nature softens the rough edges of the Gradgrind family and they come to be grateful for what she has done for them. At the end of the novel, Dickens writes that Sissy grows ever more happy and she eventually has children of her own to care for.

Signor Jupe

The horse-trainer/circus-performer who is the father of Cecilia. He sends her on an errand to "fetch the nine oils" as an ointment for his aching muscles. When she returns to their lodging, he is gone.

Mrs. Pegler/"The mysterious old woman"

Mrs. Pegler is the old woman who makes a yearly pilgrimage to Coketown. At the end of the novel, she is discovered to be the mother of Mr. Josiah Bounderby.


The unmarried companion of Stephen Blackpool. She keeps his spirits up while he is suffering and after he has left Coketown, she takes it as her responsibility to defend his honor.


The dishonorable and deceitful leader of the labor movement: The United Aggregate Tribunal. Slackbridge takes the legitimate concerns of the laborers and exploits them for his own power.

Mr. Sleary

Is the manager of a traveling circus. After providing for Sissy at the beginning of the novel he assists Tom's escape at the novel's end.

Mrs. Sparsit

Mrs. Sparsit is a widow who has fallen on hard times. She is retained in Mr. Bounderby's service until her snooping gets her fired.