Introduced in Chapter 2 by name is the stranger of Chapter 1. James (Jem) Harthouse, a young man bored with all of his travels and education, comes to work in the service of Gradgrind's political party. Upon first meeting Bounderby, Harthouse is unimpressed by the "self-made man" story or by the pride of Bounderby — the smoke that is the "meat and drink" of Coketown. Here Dickens subtly lets the reader know that this "meat and drink" to Bounderby is the death and destruction of the workers.
Bounderby takes Mr. Harthouse home for dinner in order to meet Louisa. Harthouse is singularly struck by the bareness of the room that he enters, which, devoid of a woman's touch, is a symbol of the sterility of the life that exists there. Intrigued by Louisa's detachment and the withdrawn expression of her eyes, Harthouse decides that his next challenge is to arouse some response in those eyes. When introduced to Tom — whom he immediately nicknames the "whelp" because of the younger man's manners and attitude — Harthouse sees the first flicker of emotion in Louisa's face and realizes that she lavishes upon her brother all of the love of which she is capable. Carefully, by encouraging Tom's friendship, Harthouse plants the seeds that will win Louisa's confidence.