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Character Roles (Protagonist, Antagonist...)
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Hard Times Characters
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We watch Louisa, Gradgrind's daughter and human guinea pig, grow from about twelve to about twenty-two years old. Her dad raises her to disregard emotions and see everything in terms of facts or st...
Stephen is a power loom operator in Bounderby's factory. He married young, and his wife has since become a raging alcoholic. Stephen is in love with Rachael, another factory worker, but can't be wi...
Gradgrind is a middle-class businessman and later a Member of Parliament. More importantly, he is the owner and operator of the educational system Dickens is dead set against. Grandgrind's system i...
Bounderby is a successful capitalist who owns a factory and a bank in Coketown. He brags about having grown up an orphan, and marries Louisa Gradgrind hoping to make her a trophy wife. In the end,...
Tom is Louisa's brother, and is raised in the same manner that she is. He ends up a degenerate gambler who robs Bounderby's bank to pay his debts. Tom then has to be smuggled abroad in order to avo...
Sissy is the daughter of a circus performer, who comes to live with the Gradgrinds as a servant when her father abandons her. She is naturally good and emotionally healthy, so the Gradgrind philoso...
Rachael is a factory worker who was childhood friends with Stephen's wife. She is now in love with Stephen, and helps him deal with life as a friend. After Stephen's death, she spends the rest of h...
Harthouse is a well-born young guy who is trying to get into Parliament. He's in the same political party as Gradgrind. He comes to Coketown to learn how to work the political process and get to kn...
Mrs. Sparsit is Bounderby's middle-aged housekeeper. She was born into money and a high ranking family. Bounderby loves to play up this history. She is jealous of Louisa and, after Bounderby and Lo...
As a boy, Bitzer is Gradgrind's best student. As a young man, he becomes the light porter at Bounderby's bank, spies on Tom and the other clerks, and only follows the economic principle of complete...
There's not too much to say about Stephen's wife, Mrs. Blackpool. A few things: note that it's only we at Shmoop who care enough to give her a name. In the novel she is not ever called by a name. W...
Mrs. Pegler is the little old woman who comes to town once a year to gaze at Bounderby. She is revealed to be his mom, whom he pays to stay away, because he tells everyone who will listen that he g...
Mrs. Gradgrind is passive, sickly, dim-witted, and not very present in the novel or in her children's lives. Gradgrind basically says that he married her because she had no personality whatsoever a...
Slackbridge is the union representative sent out to organize the workers at Bounderby's factory. His main way of whipping up support is to blow everything he says completely out of proportion and t...