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'Look carefully at the first two chapters of Hard Times and explore some of the ways in which Dickens's attitudes to education are presented in these chapters'

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Introduction

Prose Study - Charles Dickens Question- 'Look carefully at the first two chapters of Hard Times and explore some of the ways in which Dickens's attitudes to education are presented in these chapters' Throughout the novel "Hard Times", Dickens satirically attacks the state of education of the 1800's. It written in 1854 which was close to the time of the national education act (which ensured all children went to school) was introduced. These schools however, were fully focused on the teaching of facts. Dickens disliked this type of teaching and expressed these views through harsh, unflattering caricatures of some educationalists of the time. The severe mocking of Mr. Gradgrind (a head teacher in the novel) entertains and amuses the reader. His book is based on a biblical theme (sowing, reaping and garnering) which is extremely relevant to education as Dickens believed what is 'sown' in childhood is very important to the rest of someone's life. Firstly the separation of the novel: sowing, reaping and garnering structures the book into three significant parts and also conveys Dickens' underlying message. The terms represent Dickens' belief that whatever a child learns or 'reaps' during the first years of their life directly influences the rest of their lives. ...read more.

Middle

What's more is that Dickens typically describes characters in a vivid and thorough way. The adjectives "inflexible", "dry" and "dictatorial" illustrates the monotonous tone of Mr Gradgrind to the reader. Also his "square legs" and "square shoulders" add to the harsh description and therefore makes the reader oppose to him. The repetition of adjectives to describe him reinforces a description of him and also reflects Mr Grandgrind as repetitive too. It is therefore clear that Dickens wants a bad impression of the teacher to be displayed. The title "murdering the innocents" for chapter two has a double meaning. Firstly by using the title, Dickens is introducing his own opinion and stating Victorian education is "murdering" the imagination of "innocent" children. Secondly, it refers to the biblical story of innocent children being murdered. Both these meanings would have been significant to the reader. The biblical allusion would have been immediately been spotted by a religious, Victorian reader and this would have therefore gained there attention as they solely agreed with the bible. During the first paragraph of chapter two, Mr Gradgrind introduces himself in a highly arrogant way. The short and snappy sentences like "A man of realities" display how direct he is; even to people he has never met before. ...read more.

Conclusion

This implies to the reader that he is detached and similar to a machine which has been made repetitively without imagination. Dickens then pokes fun at him by directly stating his opinion in the quote "If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught". This also mocks and contradicts Mr M'Choakumchild's views by stating that if he wasn't so obsessed with facts he could teach much better. Dickens had a very strong attitude towards education. He believed children should be taught less harshly with facts but with more creativity and imagination. He had sympathy towards them and he displayed this through the vibrant description of Sissy. The particularly warm description of her in chapter two shows his admiration for children with wilfulness and originality. He referred to her as "girl number twenty" to emphasise her innocence and to show to readers that it is wrong to treat and label children in such a way. Throughout the two chapters Dickens includes very witty humour and sarcasm to entertain and amuse the reader. This was important as this would have gained peoples' interest in his opinions. I believe Dickens' ideas were very progressive for his time because his ideas and beliefs of what he thought was a good education are similar to the current style of education today. James Dodd RW ...read more.

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