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How does Dickens shape the reader's impressions of the Gradgrind education system in the first three chapters of Hard Times

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Introduction

How does Dickens shape the reader's impressions of the Gradgrind education system in the first three chapters of Hard Times Hard Times is a powerful use of satire. The satire is aimed at the Victorian school system and some values of the Victorian period. The novel presents us a fictional town called 'Coketown'. It introduces us to a man called Thomas Gradgrind, a satirical character with the basis of a Victorian school master. Dickens wrote this novel to attack the Victorian school system because he did not believe that it was right. He uses satire a great deal in the novel to emphasise how it does not work and why it should change. The satire is directed 'The Gradgrind Philosophy', Thomas Gradgrind's belief system. Gradgrind greatly believes in his 'philosophy' even saying ''this is the principle on which I bring up my own children'' emphasising his believes in it. The Gradgrind philosophy is shown to be authoritarian, bullying and fanatical. He puts forwards these beliefs in an utterly rigid upfront and violent way. This philosophy reduces the children to products, practically de-humanising them. It destroys the children's imaginations, their innocence and their individuality. The system is only interested in measuring and is an exaggerated version on utilitarianism. Utilitarianism originated with the economist Adam Smith and then Jeremy Bentham built on it. Dickens attacks this because he believes that individuality and emotions are deeply important. Dickens presents us with the character Thomas Gradgrind in this novel. ...read more.

Middle

Thomas Gradgrind talks to Sissy about her father's profession and he assumes that he works at stables but he is a member of the circus. Gradgrind assumes Sissy knows the definition of a horse and asks Sissy "now girl number twenty your definition of a horse", he refers to the children as numbers as if they were inanimate objects that had no significance to him whatsoever. "Of course Sissy does not know what "quadruped" means or how many toes it has, she just knows that that they are fun creatures. Dickens approves of this because Sissy again shows emotions "she curtseyed again", showing that Sissy is s a very respectful girl that is emotional as well. Also it says "blushed deeper"; Sissy is continuously showing her emotions. Again Thomas Gradgrind has juxtaposed Sissy and Bitzer to show what is expected of Sissy, that she should become a model pupil or else. Dickens does not approve of this and he uses the devices of commenting on Sissy's emotions to do so. Gradgrind asks Bitzer the definition of a horse. Bitzer splurts out facts and figures but Dickens emphasise that he does not have experience. He says things like "Quadruped gramnivorous", words that children do not even know. Dickens believes that children should have knowledge from experience. Another character is introduced at the end of chapter three, Mr.MChoakumchild. Again Dickens has used a name to emphasise how evil the system is and how wrong, it is using metaphors of what is happening to the children. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thomas' behaviour shows that he gives up easily and is weak, more passive. He is sub-missive. He is like a machine, the simile showing he has no emotion he just turns off and obeys whereas Louisa is slightly more rebellious she "looked at her father with more boldness"; this shows that Louisa is a bold and strong person. She has a rebellious personality and her individuality has been left in a perverted state. Her emotions have not yet been extinguished; embers are left dying, "not with brightness natural to cheerful youth". Louisa then goes on to say she is "tired", the system is draining her and wearing her out. Thomas Gradgrind cannot understand the failure of his system "Tired? Of what?" Dickens uses this device to show that his system is incorrect and emotions are necessary but that Gradgrind cannot yet see this. In conclusion, I have gathered the impression that utilitarianism was a great part of Victorian society but that does not make it right. It was a corrupt schooling system and was perverted. Dickens uses a variety of devices to share the folly in the novel, but I think that the juxtaposition between Sissy and Bitzer was important and the metaphors and similes emphasised the inadequacies of the system. I think that the Gradgrind Philosophy and utilitarianism had a lot of effect on the next generation because it did not continue it just emphasised the mistake that was made by Jeremy Bentham. If Dickens had not written this novel then we might have still lived in a corrupt environment with clones and no emotion. ...read more.

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