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Comparing similarities in 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens and 'The Star' by Alasdair Gray.

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Hard times 'Hard Times' was first published in 1854. It was written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) who had a very strong opinion on empiricism. It is set in the nineteenth century at a time when school was not compulsory and child labour was common. 'Hard Times' is set in the imaginary city of Coketown, which is an industrial city. 'Hard Times' is partly an industrial novel in which the factory system is portrayed in the eyes of the working class people. It investigates the minds of people who view workers as tools to do a job rather than human beings. It also operates as a critic of certain methods of teaching particularly those that are to do with filling the mind full of fact rather than let them learn while their imagination is free and they are able to have their own thoughts and opinions. Dickens novel attacks those who try to make sense of the world out of facts without any use of imagination. In the factory system, children as young as three would be working down the mines and in factories. It was not until 1870 that schooling became compulsory and the government took over education and most schools. Empiricism was the movement that began in the eighteenth century that maintained that all knowledge comes from fact and experience. According to empiricism, children are like blank pieces of paper ready to have facts written upon them. Romanticism is a movement that originated in the late eighteenth century and stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom of thought and it was a rebellion against the idea that only fact was needed to see you through life. One of the creators of empiricism was John Locke. Locke was a British Philosopher who was educated at Oxford University in 1690. He wrote a book called 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding'. In this book Locke conveyed his ideas about how our identity and personality come from our knowledge of facts. ...read more.


You can tell this because Dickens uses these phrases when writing about her physical behaviour: "Trembling voice" and "She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time." Both extracts come from the part where Mr Grabgrind asks Sissy for the definition of a horse and she is alarmed by this demand. She is unable to answer, so Mr Grabgrind asks Bitzer instead, "Quadruped Gramnivorous. Forty teeth, namely, Twenty-four grinder, four eyeteeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth." Bitzer's answer is purely factual involving no imagination. Bitzer's name gives you an insight into what he is like. He is full of bits of facts; I think this is where the name came from. Bitzer is an example of a model student at the school. He is unhealthy looking. I think Dickens is trying to say that this is not the way children should be. They should be more like Sissy. Mr Grabgrind is a retired wholesale hardware merchant who owns the school in which Sissy is taught. He believes in fact and fact alone. Dickens keeps describing his "square forefinger". This emphasises the square's hard sharp unforgiving shape. He is described as a: "Cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of children at one charge." This is describing how he is full of fact and how intent he is in filling children full of fact. It also is a reference to the military precision in which he runs his school. He tests the children about the use of fact in life, about why you would not have a carpet or wall paper with representation of something that you would not have on your wall or floor in real life. ...read more.


This contrasts the decaying cabbage leaf of Cameron's normal world to the magnificence of the incredible star. "The stairs were solid and coldly lit at each landing by a weak electric bulb." If you picture the extract with the dim bulb barely lighting the cold stairs it gives you a very dark and bleak impression. In 'Hard Times' there was quite a lot of archaic language used. However in 'The Star' there is none of this because 'The Star' was written in 1951 ninety six years after 'Hard Times' and in a century a lot of change happened to the English language. In 'The Star' there is no use of personification or extended metaphors whereas in 'Hard Times' there is one example of personification and several extended metaphors. Similes are very rare in 'The Star'. The only one I could find was "The star shone white and blue, making the space around him like a cave in an iceberg." There is no real use of repetition in 'The Star' or multiple adjectives unlike 'Hard Times'. I think Gray believes that childhood should be an imaginative time, free from responsibility and the cares that come with adulthood. Dickens believes the same. Comparing the two stories There are many similarities in 'Hard Times' by Charles Dickens and 'The Star' by Alasdair Gray despite them being written ninety six years apart. Gray and Dickens share the views that imagination is very important in a childs life and this comes across in their writing. Education plays a key role in both stories. It seems to play the enemy in both stories. The importance of childhood is also a key topic. Out of the two I think I prefer 'The Star' because it stirs the imagination more because of the ending and it makes you think about what it means and I like that in a story. I think that 'The Star' is more poetic than 'Hard Times' because of the detailed description of the star and the mystical ending. I think that although there are differences, 'The Star' and 'Hard Times' are two closely linked stories. 1 ...read more.

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