Hard Times is a novel by Charles Dickens, published in 1854. It describes life in an industrial town. Dickens was now 42 years old. The setting for this book is a time of intense industrial tensions in British society. Josiah Bounderby, a banker and textile mill owner, was friends with Thomas Gradgrind, a retired hardware wholesaler, Congressman and educator. Together they controlled the town’s economic system and educational institutions. They are materialistic and unsentimental, pretentious, and live by the principle of utilitarianism. Bounderby was attended by the widow Mrs. Sparsit. He taught his children to be practical and down-to-earth. When they learned to walk, they were put into classrooms and spent their days dealing with numbers. They were not allowed to read poetry or stories. Gradgrind marries his young daughter Louisa to the much older Bounderby, and the widow Mrs. Sparsit, jealous of her, inflicts pain on her, leading to the breakup of her marriage. At Gradgrind’s own educational initiative, his son Tom was forced to help Bounderby with his work. He led a dissolute life and was heavily in debt. He stole money from The Bounderby Bank and ran away, hiding in the circus and playing the role of a clown. After a series of painful lessons and the influence of Sissy Jupe, a circus girl, he gradually changed his attitude towards life and was sent to America by his father. Bounderby liked to boast of his self-made wealth, and to accuse workers of being dissatisfied with their delusions of luxury. Five years later Bounderby died of a stroke on the streets of Cookstown, and Louisa remarried.