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Hard Times (a series of comments on the characters)

Thomas Gradgrind

Thomas Gradgrind's family tree. Note how several of his children are named after utalitarian (and free-market) philosophers.


Thomas Gradgrind's pedagogy is one of the central themes of the novel.


Mr. Gradgrind is not an inherently evil man, in fact he might have been a "kind" man had he just made a "mistake in his algebra." He seems to genuinely care for people as evidenced by his taking in of Sissy.

Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe

Sissy has a role as the agent of salvation in Hard Times. She is ultimately unable to save Louisa, casting doubt on Dickens' belief in the power of faith, imagination or faith (depending on what you believe Sissy to represent).


Dickens' treatment of unions is a curious one. The union (Slackbridge specifically) is presented through the use of images of fire. The first time Slackbridge is presented is in Book 2 Chapter 4 (Men and Brothers) it is in a room of "violent heat" with Slackbridge as "hoarse as he was hot." Dicken's concludes that it would be ridiculous to think there could be "smoke without fire." Slackbridge is characterised as a demagogue, exploiting the worker's plight for his own ends rather than any real care for them. __

George Cowell talking to gathered workers during the Preston strike. Dickens visited the strike, though denied that it was a major influence in his writing of Hard Times.

Mr. Bounderby

Bounderby's marriage

Bounderby is married to Lousia at the end of Book 2. The marriage is clearly unsuitable.


Panoptic agent of evil

In an "automatic" progression in Book 2, Chapter 1 (Effects in the Bank) Bitzer is said to have received the "respectable" office of "general informant and spy." Bitzer also suffers from a solipsistic take on life, forcing his own mother to be locked up in a workhouse.

Later in the book, Bitzer turns on his 'creator' (Mr Gradgrind). He is asked "Bitzer, have you a heart?" The reply to this is a description of the heart and why he must necessarily have one as a human.

Jeremy Bentham's Panopticum
A panopticum is a type of prison in a single prison guard can see all of the prisoners, but the prisoners cannot tell whether the prison guard is looking at them so they adjust their behaviour in line with what it would be were they constantly watched.