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The purpose of this essay is to describe the characters of Mr. Thomas Gradgrind (Senior) in Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront.

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English Literature Coursework - Pre 1900 Prose The purpose of this essay is to describe the characters of Mr. Thomas Gradgrind (Senior) in Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront�. Both are important characters, however Gradgrind is more crucial to the plot of Hard Times than Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre, as he appears only in the early chapters. Both authors use their language to show their opinions of the characters, and the societies in which they exist. The authors, especially Dickens, use the very names of the characters to portray their opinion of them. Mr. Brocklehurst is a clergyman, and proprietor of a school for poor children. His doctrine for the education of the children in his school is similar in ways to that of Thomas Gradgrind as it is 'not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying', which is similar to the factual education of Gradgrind. We first encounter Mr. Brocklehurst when he comes to the house of Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt, regarding Jane attending his school, Lowood Academy. Jane (who is the narrator) described him as 'a black pillar' with a 'grim face' and his features and all the lines of his frame are said to be 'harsh and prim'. This description, in the same way as that of Gradgrind, gives a clue to the persona of the character, giving an impression of a strict, severe man. Because the novel is written in the first person, from Jane's point of view, we see Brocklehurst through her eyes, a deliberate device used by the writer to influence our opinions of characters. Bront� had similar experiences in her youth to those of Jane in the novel, and so the feelings felt by Jane in the novel are probably the same as those of Bront�. Due to this method of writing, we come to the same conclusions as Jane, i.e. ...read more.


Dickens clearly does not want us to think that Gradgrind is an amiable or cheerful man. The fact that the description of Gradgrind is made through the eyes of children also influences the reader's opinion of him. This is similar in ways to Bront�'s description of Brocklehurst, as both men are portrayed as having nothing attractive or fanciful about their appearance, and both are described through the eyes of children. Thomas Gradgrind has a wife and five children, all of whom live at Stone Lodge, a suitably unremarkable house. Mrs. Gradgrind is described as 'a bundle of shawls' as she is a quiet and detached character, who never says or does very much. Of Gradgrind's five children, only two become involved in the novel - Thomas and Louisa, the two eldest. Both are raised on the utilitarian doctrine from an early age, but understand nothing of life and love. The first time we encounter them they are, to Gradgrind's extreme disappointment, visiting 'Sleary's Circus' which is in town to 'see what it was like', having experienced nothing similar in their lives. The first time we witness compassion in Gradgrind is when he discovers that Cecilia 'Sissy' Jupe, a pupil at his school who lives with the circus, has been abandoned by her father. Gradgrind decides, much to his friend Mr. Bounderby's dismay, to take her in and raise her. This incident illustrates to us that while he is a man of Fact, Gradgrind is compassionate and does care for other people. Dickens also uses the occasion to show us the difference between Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby, a much less benevolent man. Although Gradgrind does seemingly do a cruel thing in not allowing Sissy to return to the circus, and forcing her to make up her mind immediately, he is doing what he believes is best for the girl. Sissy, while not as successful in studies as Gradgrind hoped for, is liked by him, and described as 'an affectionate, earnest, good young woman'. ...read more.


When Gradgrind finally discovers his son's deception and crime, a change comes over him. He spends a day in his room, considering how the two prides of his 'System' had turned out so wrong, and comes out of the room a different man. He is described as 'a wiser man, and a better man, than in the days when in his life he wanted nothing but Facts'. He even saves his son from the law, an act that involved a confrontation with Bitzer, a former pupil and 'success' of the System. This final change is another of the main redeeming features of Gradgrind, as he learns from his mistakes, and we learn that his other children are not raised merely on Fact. I think that although his actions were indisputably cruel, he learns from these mistakes and in the end, turns out to be an amiable man. The change in Gradgrind's character is the main difference between himself and Mr. Brocklehurst. Although at no point in the novel does Dickens appear to agree with the utilitarian education taught by Gradgrind, and appears to agree with Sleary that 'the people must be entertained', he does seem to respect Gradgrind's belief in his system, and the fact that in the end, he seems remorseful for all the things he has done. In the final chapter we are told that Gradgrind ends up 'making his facts and figures subservient to Faith, Hope and Charity', and so we end up liking him more than we did earlier in the novel, when 'facts alone are wanted in life'. Mr. Brocklehurst, on the other hand, does not change, and Bront� seems to despise him as much at the end as she did at the beginning. For these reasons, I think that Thomas Gradgrind is by far the more amiable of the two, and that he should be respected for his integrity, while Brocklehurst should be scorned for his hypocrisy. Peter Knipe GCSE English Literature Coursework Page 1 ...read more.

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