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How effectively Dickens presents his characters and themes in the opening two chapters of Hard Times.

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Introduction

In this essay I aim to look at how effectively Dickens presents his characters and themes in the opening two chapters of Hard Times. I am going to comment on his style and language in this response. Firstly I will analyse and then evaluate the text. I will look at a number of things including content, tone, rhythm, context, language and style. Hard Times is a narrative prose which Dickens writes using plenty of literary devices. Firstly I'm going to look at chapter one "The One Thing Needful" and chapter two "Murdering the Innocents." The first thing I noticed was the name of both the chapters were biblical phrases. The first chapter sets the scene in a "plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom." We know there are three adults present "the speaker, the schoolmaster and third grown man present." It is here that we learn that the narrator is a grown man but we don't know anything else about him. During chapter two, we are still in the classroom, and we discover, the third grown man is called M'Choakemchild. However, we still don't know the name of the narrator. In the classroom, Gradgrind is questioning a young girl about her father's job and horses. ...read more.

Middle

Metaphors and similes are used quite a lot in the description of Gradgrind e.g. "the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for a base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall." Dickens also uses repetition of the word "facts" and especially "nothing but facts." I think that this is done because Dickens wants to get across to us that all Gradgrind wants to teach these children are facts. Dickens' style is very consistent and it doesn't change throughout chapter one and two. The intentions behind chapter one and chapter two include several things. For example, Dickens wants to set the scene, and give us a definite opinion of Gradgrind. He is also starting to tell us about how his teachers should be and what his school is like. Throughout the book, he wants to inform, whilst entertaining parents of the dangers of these schools just being allowed to be set up like this. As we know that Hard Times was first printed weekly from April to August of 1854 in a house owner's magazine, so therefore, it was quite likely to be read by a large audience. When looking at the context that Hard Times was set in, I am going to discuss utilitarianism and also the education during and before 1854. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is because without using the descriptive language and the figurative language that is used, I don't think that Dickens would portray his feelings on the subject matter as well as he does. I also feel that now I understand the context of Hard Times, I can understand the book better. All of the above mentioned literary devices contribute to making the first two chapters effective in presenting the characters and themes. At the end of each chapter you're left with a clear description of one of the characters. Dickens writes these in such a way that you want to learn more and if they carry on to your expectations. You also learn quite clear themes at the beginning and so during the story you know what Dickens is trying to achieve and inform people. I realise that at the time, this wasn't published as a book, but in a weekly magazine. This makes it quite understandable as Dickens obviously had to make his each chapter effective to keep the readers interested. If they could only read one chapter at a time and the first two were really dreary, they wouldn't be interested to read anymore. I believe that this is why he has started with a big impact. How effectively does Dickens present his characters and themes in the opening two chapters of "Hard Times"? Comment on his style and language in your response. Analyse and evaluate. By Bryony Harper, 12MZS ...read more.

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