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Discuss how Dickens criticises the Victorian education system in the opening of Hard Times?

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Introduction

Discuss how Dickens criticises the Victorian education system in the opening of Hard Times? In Dickens' Hard Times, the reader is presented with a clear and judgemental picture of Utilitarian principles, and its effect on education. Dickens shows his strong disapproval towards the effects of an education based solely around 'Facts' during the Victorian era, where rules are made to produce the "greatest good for the greatest number". He focuses on the regulations that Jeremy Bentham (the founder of Utilitarianism) created and how it affected education for all the wrong reasons. The Utilitarian rules and style of education is portrayed through the eyes of Thomas Gradgrind whereas the contrast in long-term and short-term effects on the students is depicted through the physical and mental state of Sissy Jupe and Bitzer. Dickens manages to effectively mock the education system throughout Hard Times through techniques such as; repetition, exaggeration, contrasting characters and occasional subtle sarcasm. The opening scene is set in an unwelcoming and bland atmosphere, to almost push the reader away. ...read more.

Middle

"Plant nothing else, and root out everything else" shows that fact, and nothing else, is everything a person needs to know. "Plant nothing else" suggests the children do not need anything but facts to live- they do not need an imagination and without an imagination the children cannot imagine a life without facts. By saying "root out everything else" it proves that Gradgrind's life has been built purely upon facts and all that matters to him, is that of which he can measure- "Ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature" which shows how tied up in facts, multiplications and measurements he really is. The constant repetition of the word 'facts' implies that this is the most important part of Utilitarianism and the school and the whole education system, not just Gradgrind, is like this. Sissy Jupe is conveyed as a warm, happy, colourful character. Her shy and polite manner is another factor that contrasts the reality of Victorian education. Dickens presents her in this way to firstly make Gradgrind appear more powerful and also to make Sissy appear more innocent. ...read more.

Conclusion

As the title of the second chapter suggests, 'Murdering The Innocents' implies a literary death of the children's spirits. The total and complete demoralisation of their will and personalities is expressed through the emotive language and contrast between the verb and noun. Using the violent finality of the word 'murder', Dickens conjures up an image of unrelenting despair of the children's lives. Then, by referring to the children as 'innocents', it gives the impression that they are completely under Gradgrind's influence, with no knowledge of their own to ever do any wrong. Through words, Dickens can depict a scene of extreme deprivation and hardship, which supports his views of an education system based on the Utilitarianism principles. Through his experiences of Victorian life, he presented the reader with thought-provoking images of the system in which he wished he could change. He shows his continued displeasure in the simplest yet most significant ways throughout (which have been explained throughout the essay) by introducing a range of techniques to uphold the grim picture of life during his childhood. Thus making Charles Dickens a prolific author, who has effectively portrayed the underlying beliefs he had by criticising the Victorian education system in Hard Times. ...read more.

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