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Hard Times

Hard Times


by Charles Dickens

Tom Gradgrind Timeline and Summary

  • As a young boy, Tom is drilled to have no imagination, to repress all his creativity, and to learn only facts.
  • When Sleary's circus comes to town, his sister Louisa gets him to sneak off to peep at it.
  • A few years later, Tom becomes a clerk at Bounderby's bank.
  • He guilts Louisa into marrying Bounderby, telling her that this way they can be together, and that she needs to help him be better treated by Bounderby.
  • Tom is a lazy, bad clerk. He is also a gambler who runs up debts. First, he asks Louisa to cover them – selling her jewelry in the process. After her money runs out, he starts to steal from the bank.
  • After Stephen is fired from his job, Tom and Louisa visit him and Rachael. Tom tells Stephen that if Stephen spends a few nights hanging around the bank, then Tom might have a job for him.
  • Having set Stephen up like this, Tom completes his robbery.
  • When Bounderby starts to investigate, Tom never leaves his side – most likely so he can know exactly what Bounderby is discovering.
  • After Stephen is found alive, Tom realizes that Stephen will reveal the setup and leaves town. With Sissy's help, he hides in Sleary's circus as a clown.
  • Tom's father, sister, and Sissy come to get him on board a ship sailing abroad to escape.
  • He is captured by Bitzer, but Sleary's people pull an awesome heist to free him and send him off.
  • After many years abroad, he finally realizes the error of his ways, writes a really sad apologetic letter to his sister, and starts to come back to visit her.
  • He dies on the way back to Coketown.