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Explore how Dickens presents the theme of education in the first two chapters of Hard Times. What point might he be making about the educational system of his day?

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Introduction

Explore how Dickens presents the theme of education in the first two chapters of Hard Times. What point might he be making about the educational system of his day? Dickens felt and believed that the educational system of his day was too utilitarian, that it was based too much on fact and reason. Also, he considered it to not be aesthetic enough, and not comprehensive enough. Dickens used caricature to exaggerate Gradgrind, the third gentleman, M'Choakumchild, Sissy and Bitzer. Gradgrind is obviously caricatured. His name can be broken down into two parts: "Grad-" and "-grind". "Grad-" being short for "gradual"/"gradually", and "-grind" being "crush", "break" or "wear away". This embellishes his personal beliefs on teaching as hammering away at the children, or "pitchers", to get them to know Facts. The capitalisation of "Facts" by Dickens shows us that they are revered by Gradgrind at an almost godly level. ...read more.

Middle

One word appears to express what Dickens' message is would be "deeper". A deeper colouring from the sun can be likened to her deeper knowledge of horses revealed by 'the light of truth'. However, Bitzer is depicted as "so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed." In this quote, the most important words emerge as "draw out of him". As with Sissy, these can be likened to the factual knowledge being drawn out by 'the light of truth'. The contrast between the two seems to be used to show the contrast between someone who truly has knowledge [Sissy, with her practical knowledge of a horse], versus someone who is meant to have knowledge, but doesn't really [Bitzer, being able to recite the facts about a horse]. The difference between them is what Dickens is trying to show us, the readers. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is brought out in the fact that the third gentleman seems to be based on Henry Cole, who believed that consumer goods should be designed to represent industrial items. This idea of being the same as so many other people, suggests that they all "know" the same facts, but, coupled with the narrator's interjection "If only he had learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!", shows that Dickens believed that knowing too much, and not having practical knowledge of the facts, or an imagination - as he discards fancy as useless, means that their education isn't comprehensive, and is a disadvantage. Coupled with Dickens' background, including his speech on "the one thing needful" being "comprehensive liberal education", one can assume that he believed in children being taught a broad range of subjects, in an open minded fashion. Normally, contrast would be used in greater amounts to express this huge difference between the stereotyped reality, and the desired reality, but Dickens used adjectives with seemingly double meanings, repetition, and tricolons. Jonathan Whitehead 10HJC 17/07/2008 ...read more.

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