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What Do We Learn of Dickens’ Views On the Form of Education Depicted At the Outset of Hard Times? What Methods Does Dickens Use To Communicate These Views?

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Introduction

WHAT DO WE LEARN OF DICKENS' VIEWS ON THE FORM OF EDUCATION DEPICTED AT THE OUTSET OF HARD TIMES? WHAT METHODS DOES DICKENS USE TO COMMUNICATE THESE VIEWS? In his novel, Dickens uses a variety of methods to give the reader an insight into his personal views on education. An important way in which he does this is by ridiculing Gradgrind's way of teaching. Dickens uses a sarcastic tone in order to do this, which is essential to show the reader how he sees Gradgrind and his way of educating children. It is clear from the outset that 'the one thing needful' is 'fact'. This is emphasised by the title of the first book. The 'facts' are to be '[sowed]' like seeds into the fertile minds of the young pupils. Dickens emphasises Gradgrind's need for facts in the repetition of 'square' as a means to describe some of his characteristics. Gradgrind has 'square fingers', 'square legs' and 'square shoulders', emphasising how set he is in his ways and how firmly he believes that 'facts alone are wanted in life'. At the start of the second chapter Dickens uses the repeated use of Gradgrind's name, possibly to highlight the harsh alliteration within and to emphasise the monotonous grind of his educational methods. Gradgrind aims to teach his pupils until they are 'full to the brim' with facts. This indicates that he sees no need for the children to experience anything else. ...read more.

Middle

By emphasising how strongly these two teachers are against the use of imagination, Dickens is once again, able to show that he doesn't agree with this. It is possible to assume that the reason Gradgrind and M'Choakumchild dislike flowers so much is because they are part of nature, which is one of the few things that man cannot control. Bitzer is a 'light-eyed and light-haired' boy, who '[looks] as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white'. His skin is 'unwholesomely deficient' and is therefore clearly lacking something. The graphic description of Bitzer is very relevant to Dickens's views on education. When considering that Bitzer is Gradgrind's ideal student it is possible to assume that he is lacking individuality and imagination. Bitzer's abnormal characteristics emphasise the effect Gradgrind's educational system has on his pupils. By understanding about Bitzer the reader understands more about Gradgrind's teaching the strange effect it has on children. In this section Dickens uses Bitzer and Sissy, who no only differ in appearance but also in educational views, to show how ridiculous he find Gradgrind and his teaching methods. In Gradgrind's classroom all his pupils are passive 'vessels' who only answer to please him. Dickens very subtly puts his point of view across in the way that he writes his novel because he is cleverly controlling the reader's views. He intentionally makes the reader sympathise with Sissy Jupe and in this way indicates that he disagrees with Gradgrind and everything he stands for. ...read more.

Conclusion

This clever use of a direct authorial comment enables Dickens to bluntly state how he feels about M'Choakumchild's irrelevant knowledge. This frank statement allows the reader an insight into Dickens' thoughts. Dickens compares Gradgrind's way of teaching to the way in which Morgiana handled the forty thieves in the book. This suggests that Dickens believes Gradgrind will eventually kill the children by pouring facts into them. Throughout Dickens questions Gradgrind's method of suppressing the children's imagination. He wonders whether even if Gradgrind can 'fill' each child brim full with facts, he be able to 'kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within' the children or only 'maim him and distort him'. The sheer importance of this statement can be understood by the biblical tone employed. The use of a rhetorical question warns that imagination cannot be destroyed and indicates that the rest of the novel is based on the consequences of Gradgrind's need to abolish any means of thought or imagination. Throughout the beginning of his novel, Dickens gives few direct indications of his views on the form of education depicted, however through the use of satire, he is able to suggest how he feels about certain aspects of Gradgrind's educational system. It becomes very apparent that he is not at all in favour of it and that he disagrees with Gradgrind's ridiculous hatred of 'Fancy' and imagination. Towards the end of the second chapter Dickens expresses these views much more openly by writing comments in parenthesis and with the use of direct authorial comments. ...read more.

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