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Education in Hard Times Essay


How does Dickens present his attitude to education in the opening chapters of

Hard Times?

Charles Dickens presents his attitude to education in the opening chapters of Hard Times in a very clear and deliberate way. It is blatantly clear that the imagery and techniques used by Dickens conveys to the audience a very negative image of education. Dickens uses techniques such as repetition, exaggeration, metaphor and agricultural imagery to portray his attitude towards education. The main technique that Dickens uses is satire, the whole novel itself is very satirical. Dickens uses satire to great effect to present his attitude towards education.

Charles Dickens is much loved for his great contribution to English literature. He was a Victorian author who wrote gripping stories depicting the contemporary society which aroused the sympathy and ideas of the reader. Dickens derived from a very poor background in the Victorian era. Dickens was one of the lucky few who got sent to school by the age of nine. Unfortunately this was short lived after his Father had been imprisoned for bad debt. Dickens was then sent to work in Warren Blacking factory and he endured appalling conditions and also experienced loneliness and despair. This is all very relevant and influential as to why Dickens wrote this satirical novel Hard Times. Dickens experiences at school coloured his future. He proved that you do not need a proper education to become something in life. His life is a parallel to that of the character Sissy Jupe as she has not been properly educated, yet she knows the general teachings of life.

The title Hard Times is very significant to the novel itself. The title is a clear and certainly deliberate technique used by Dickens to portray what the rest of the novel will be like. This novel is very satirical. It is a novel about the education system in Victorian times. It is also about a Father how is a teacher and a member of parliament who has two unhappy and neglected children. He then decides to adopt a girl from the circus and to teach her all he knows. Whilst this is happening, a worker in a factory is having his sick wife steal from him. The main subject of the novel is the Victorian education systems and the major class divide.

Dickens seems to present the novel Hard Times as a condition of England novel. This means that Dickens is using this novel to portray the condition that England was in during the Victorian period. Dickens uses Hard Times to express his feelings about the education system and how there was a major class divide between the rich and the poor.

The novel Hard Times is mainly that of satirical devices. Satire is the criticism of something in a humorous way and Dickens uses this technique throughout the novel. There are many different techniques used in satire such as caricature, exaggeration, figures of sympathy and the use of names. There are also many other techniques to do this. For example, Dickens uses the name Mr MChoakumchild to portray satire. This name has the message that this person chokes children, not literally but he rids them of their imagination and souls. The purpose of this novel was to convey Dickens ideas and beliefs of the Victorian education system and the class divide in a very satirical way to have a harsher impact on the reader.

Paternalism is the belief that those with power, money or influence should act responsibly and look after those people lacking power, money or influence, the same way a Father would for a child. Dickens desperately believed in this as in his early life he was brought into a factory and the man their looked after him and also others within the factory. The reader sees Dickens as a paternalist in the text by the way Dickens portrays his characters and their actions. The reader could see Dickens as being a paternalist by his portraying Mr Gradgrind as a man with power who thus adopts a little orphan girl out of the goodness of his heart. Romanticism is the belief in the importance of imagination. Dickens is a romantic because during his childhood he was pulled in and out of school. Dickens portrays Gradgrind in a negative way to show how the teachers were depriving the children of an imagination. Before Gradgrinds reform to good, he symbolises the whole Victorian education system is depriving children of their imagination. Dickens is definitely a romantic as he is mocking the utilitarian ways of the country. School is incredibly important for Dickens as he believes the children are the future and will lead the way. Throughout their childhoods, moral consciences may or may not have been developed. For instance, Bitzer has been filled to the brim with facts and not developed a moral conscience. On the other hand, Sissy Jupe has developed a moral conscience as she has lead a life away from robotic school and her imagination has been allowed to flourish. Sissy is a normal child and in this case she appears to be a bright light in the midst of darkness.

The Factory Act of 1833 was an act passed to stop night time working for children and entitle them to three hours of schooling. However, the schools were often run by the factory owner so all they learnt about was the industry itself. Dickens portrays education as being a machine, for example, Square repeated to show a robotic form and imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim. This shows us that the children were the vessels and the robot teachers were just pouring facts into them. Utilitarianism was the belief that the greater good should be delivered to the greatest number of people when decisions in a society were made. Dickens was very much against utilitarianism as he believed that everyone is an individual and should be treated differently, and in some cases, humanely. Dickens emphasises the importance of fact by using the technique of repetition. For example, in the first paragraph fact is repeated constantly to stick in the minds of the reader. Gradgrind shows a very poor attitude towards humans. Gradgrind says ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you what it comes to. This shows that the character of Gradgrind believes you can do anything mathematically or scientifically. Gradgrinds belief is if you dont see it, it doesnt exist, like imagination. Gradgrind is presented in a very robotic manner. Dickens titles the first chapter The one thing needful which is a religious reference referring to love and the teachings of Jesus. The first chapter is all about facts and there is no love involved therefore Gradgrind thinks that facts are the equivalent to love. Gradgrind thinks that he is incredibly intelligent when in fact, he is completely the opposite. Gradgrind says that you can only form minds of reasoning animals upon facts. Dickens makes Gradgrind deliberately say that as he is portraying a clear message to the reader that Gradgrind believes that you are born an animal and that only fact can mould you into being a human. Dickens creates an extremely negative image of the classroom to portray how he thinks about education. Dickens describes the classroom as a vault.plain..Monotonous. This clearly illustrates the feelings of Dickens about the education system.

Dickens uses an agricultural metaphor to show that children are like seeds and they need to be nurtured and loved in order to flourish and turn into a healthy human being. The second chapter of the novel is called Murdering the innocents. This could refer to the poems of William Blake who wrote two different poems, one entitled Murdering the experience and the other Murdering the innocents. This is about how when children are young they do not know much and are incredibly innocent. When you murder their innocence they turn into an adult too quickly and they have lost any chance of returning to their childhood. Dickens is a romanticist so this is why he used this title and he believes in imagination.

Sissy Jupe is a hugely important character in the novel. She doesnt appear to be governed and regulated like the other pupils. This is because she has a vivid imagination due to the fact she was born and raised in the circus, which only brings out the creativity inside you. Sissy Jupe is a product of her environment. Dickens uses Sissy Jupes name in a way that Jupe in French means skirt. Skirts tend to be free moving and frilly, this reflects Sissy personality. Also, Gradgrind asks her name, she says Sissy Jupe and he tries to demoralise her and change her identity by saying Call yourself Cecilia. Sissy knows a lot about horses as she has spent most of her live with them whilst living in the circus. She cannot define a horse and is possessed of no facts. Dickens is trying to make a point that not everything has to be scientific but this is what the teachers are telling the children. Sissy is portrayed as a very polite and well mannered young girl. Dickens is trying to portray her as a normal child to show the juxtaposition between Sissy and the other pupils. Dickens makes a Sunbeam shine on Sissy and Dickens describes her vividly to show that she has a soul, she is a normal child. Sissy represents fancy and an example of a normal child whereas Gradgrinds daughter Louisa is a symbol of how the education system can completely destroy the life and soul out of children. Sissy Jupe is very similar to the character of Oliver in another one of Dickens novels. Both of the children are normal and they both make people see the error of their ways. This shows Dickens outlook is very pessimistic about life but the children of the world are what is most important.

Bitzer has developed no moral conscience as he has been tortured and his innocents murdered by education. Bitzer symbolises how taking the innocents out of a child can tear away their soul and humanity. Bitzer is an unfortunate victim of the education system. Bitzer is also in the Sunbeam in the classroom and he is described the complete opposite to Sissy. His cold eyes, the eyes are said to be the gateway to a persons soul, if he has cold, black eyes, how could he possibly have a soul. Bitzer describes a horse in a very scientific way, it was as if he was reading it out of a dictionary. This is just another example to show that Bitzer has been filled to the brim with facts and his imagination and soul have been well and truly destroyed. Sissy and Bitzer are both 2 contrasting microcosms. Sissy is symbolising imagination and soul whereas Bitzer is just another victim of education.

Dickens uses Gradgrinds name to create a negative effect on the reader. Gradgrind is a very harsh and tough name which also implies that he grinds the childrens imagination to turn them into soulless adults. Dickens had created an incredibly vivid caricature of Gradgrind through his description of him. Bald head...square coat...square legs...square shoulder. This description portrays the image that Gradgrind is robotic and not human. Dickens portrays Gradgrind as a Utilitarianist as he treats the children all the same and he doesnt treat them as individuals. Gradgrind is programmed to blow them clean out of the region of childhood. Gradgrind constantly feeds the children the same facts that he was taught himself. Dickens makes Gradgrind a very poor father figure. The children dont get a break from school and work and they both end up unhappy and twisted due to the fact their father neglected them of love.

Dickens uses the use of names to create satire. Dickens calls one teacher Mr MChoakumchild which is a clear reference to choking children but not literally, but choking the childs imagination. Dickens uses fistic phraseology to describe the Inspector to have a harsher impact on the reader. A professed pugilist, this creates very strong imagery about the Inspector. The Inspector knocks the wind out of common sense, this adds to the idea of hash imagery. Dickens deliberately uses a huge paragraph to list a lot of pointless subjects that Mr MChoakumchild had learnt. Dickens lists all of these pointless subjects to show how much the teacher knows. Towards the end of the paragraph Dickens writes if he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more. This explains why Dickens went to great lengths to lists pointless subjects. Dickens does this to show the comparison of how much you know and how good a teacher you are. Dickens is saying that Mr MChoakumchild knows everything, yet, he knows nothing.

Morgiana and the Forty Thieves is the metaphor Dickens uses to describe teachers and education. He is saying that the hot oil is the teaching and it is being poured over the children and their imagination, the children never stood a chance. Dickens wanted children to be taught with respect. He wanted them to be treated as individuals and not collectively. Dickens wanted childrens fancy to be encouraged as Dickens was a Romantic.

I agree with Dickens ideas, I believe the children are the future. Creativity and imagination is a major component in the world today. Many jobs involve these concepts and it makes the world go round. Childrens imagination should be encouraged to flourish instead of them being repressed and tortured. Dickens stood up against education by writing this satirical novel and the techniques he used definitely helped him have an impact on the reader and make them ponder on the harsh cruelty of the education system.

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