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The Opening Chapters of Hard Times by Charles Dickens

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Introduction

The Opening Chapters of Hard Times by Charles Dickens Charles Dickens was born in Kent on February 7th 1812. It was the start of the nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution was changing many English policies, the education system being one of them. Dickens wrote "Hard Times" intending to show what was wrong in schools and how they could be improved. He uses each of the main characters to get across his different points. In this essay I will explore some of the ways in which Dicken's attitudes to education are portrayed in the first few chapters of "Hard Times". In the first chapter Dickens shows how Thomas Gradgrind is well and truly obsessed with facts. Here is a quote from one the very first few lines of the book: "Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else." Gradgrind goes on and on about facts for the rest of the first paragraph and every time he comes across the word fact, the "F" is capitalised just like the "G" of God is capitalised in the bible. ...read more.

Middle

On the other hand Bitzer a boy who has been at the school for a while and knows the exact definition for a horse. He described as pale, unwholesomely, light-haired and deficient. The way each character is described shows what fact does to children and how imagination and opinion should flourish. As readers we feel sorry for both children. Sissy Jupe is being humiliated and having her personal thoughts removed but Bitzer has gone pale and white with fact. He sits down with "his knuckles to his freckled forehead". Dickens uses description to present certain ideas of the characters. If Dicken's hadn't thought about each character, Gradgrind, Sissy, Bitzer and Inspector M'Choakumchild and how their appearance and features could reflect what they'd been through and what they thought the book wouldn't really make much sense and wouldn't show what Dickens thought. Here's a quote describing Sissy Jupe when Gradgrind stands her up in front of the whole class: "She courtesied again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had all this time." ...read more.

Conclusion

Readers respond to this and side with Sissy's points of view and ideas. The difference between them is emphasised even more when Gradgrind catches his very own children peeping through a whole to get a glimpse of the circus where Sissy Jupe's father works. He was "dumb with amazement" at his "disgraced family". Just after this event Gradgrind's daughter Louisa says "I was tired, father." "Of what?" inquires Gradgrind. "of everything I think". I have looked carefully at the opening of "Hard Times" and Dicken's attitudes towards education have been conveyed through characterisation, speech and narrative. As the novel progresses Gradgrind realises that a life dependent on facts will not work, while Sissy Jupe is a positive influence showing imagination and experience to be more important than facts. Despite the mocking tone of Dicken's narrative, he was trying to draw the reader's attention to the problems in the Victorian Education System. Charles put forward his concerns, attitudes and ideas in a way that they could be understood. Writing a story explaining your views is much more effective than simply telling people your point of view. His choice of language and structure helped him make this book very effective. ?? ?? ?? ?? Hard Times by Charles Dickens Thomas McKay-Smith 10ACY ...read more.

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