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Comment on the way Dickens presents the characters of Gradgrind, Sissy and Bitzer in the opening chapters of 'Hard Times'

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Introduction

Pre 1914 Prose Coursework Comment on the way Dickens presents the characters of Gradgrind, Sissy and Bitzer in the opening chapters of 'Hard Times' Dickens was born on February 7th 1812, during the Victorian era. He wrote of the conditions and the people of his time while working as a reporter (for a paper called 'Household Words') being sent around the country. He spent much of his time exploring in the streets of London and wrote from experience and deep knowledge of his city, drawing character from his life and placing them in familiar situations and surroundings. As a young boy, Dickens began work in a factory, which scarred his childhood. There were no health and safety laws and many working class children had to leave school at the age of twelve and child labour was commonplace. At the time of writing 'Hard Times' Dickens was separated from his wife, he was trapped, like Stephen Blackpool, the mill worker in an unhappy marriage. 'Hard Times' is one of Dickens' shortest novels, it was first serialised in 'Household Words' and can be linked to his disturbed youth. ...read more.

Middle

This reflects the sunkenness of Gradgrind's eyes and the similarities can be drawn between his eyes and the vault of his schoolroom. There is repetition in the style of language used to describe him. For example, the constant repetition of the phrase, "The emphasis was helped", in the opening of four consecutive sentences. The extended metaphor at the end of the first chapter depicts the children as "vessels" or jars, to be filled to the top with facts until they are full. The metaphor portrays the children as inanimate objects, which shows the reader the arrogance of Gradgrind: "Vessels then and there arranged in order ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim." Dickens describes them as if they are empty and know nothing. Therefore they have to learn facts whether they like it or not. The short sentences and repetition in the sentences of the opening of the second chapter aids the description of Gradgrind as it shows the reader there is no manipulating this man and what you see is what you get. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sissy's politeness to Gradgrind, as well as showing a well-mannered child also show how nervous she is around him, and the fear she has of him. Sissy is frightened of Gradgrind as she sees that as she is from a poor lifestyle, because of the shabbiness of her home, she will not be allowed to continue her studies, as those with a proper education will do better in the future. The audience empathises with Sissy because of this. In conclusion, Gradgrind has a stern manner and is very controlling of his pupils and his children because he is a very hard character he is "a man of realities." Bitzer is a machine-like character; his white face reflects the coldness of his life with only facts in it. This contrasts to Sissy's character, which is imaginative, because she lacks the proper formal education Bitzer has received. "Hard Times" is based on, and shows, Dickens's view of rejection, to the callous determination of Victorian greed. The audience empathises with Sissy the most as her character seems to be lost and the most fragile. The audience do not empathise with Gradgrind because of his stern and cold nature, which, as Bitzer becomes a model student, causes the audience to empathise with neither of the two characters. ...read more.

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