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What does Hard Times show about Dickens attitude towards education?

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What does "Hard Times" show about Dickens' attitude towards education? When Dickens wrote "Hard Times" in 1854, he aimed to highlight the social and economic pressures that many people were experiencing in the Victorian era of Britain. One of the major themes throughout the book is the idea of "Fact vs. Fancy". Dickens uses this novel as a medium for voicing his opinions on a lot of things that were happening in Britain at the time of writing. Dickens wanted to attack the failings of the Victorian education system, which many believed to have too much emphasis on cramming the children's minds full of facts and figures, and nor enough attention given to other aspects of their development. These ideas are broadly labelled as "utilitarianism". It should be noted that the only educational system in the fictional town of Coketown is built upon utilitarian beliefs. One of the main characters in the novel - Mr. Gradgrind - firmly believed in utilitarianism, and opened a non-fee paying school that catered to the lower classes. Gradgrind, being a utilitarian, takes full advantage of the school as a platform to project his utilitarian opinions upon children, in the hope that he will be able to create young adults with utilitarian beliefs. ...read more.


Dickens resolved to "strike the heaviest blow in my power" for those who laboured in horrific conditions. As stated earlier, Dickens is very opposed to the utilitarian attitude that he gave Gradgrind. For Dickens, Utilitarianism is based upon a false conception of human nature. Their trust in the economic forces and their reliance on statistical evidence made no allowance for noble human qualities such as generosity, kindness and sympathy. Sissy serves as a contrast, to Louisa because while Sissy is imaginative and compassionate, Louisa is rational and, for the most part, unfeeling. Through Sissy's interaction with her, Louisa is able to explore her more sensitive, feminine sides. Gradgrind's two children - Louisa and Tom - were brought up around Utilitarian beliefs from childhood by their father, something that Mr. Gradgrind is very proud of and it also shows us that he is very proud of his system. Louisa and Tom were taught to abandon their emotions, and for Louisa especially, they find it difficult to express themselves clearly. Both children were never given the chance to grasp this concept of "fancy" and because of this, they had a very diverse childhood in the sense that they probably didn't get the chance to do a lot of things that children usually get to do. ...read more.


Respecting her father's wishes, Sissy goes to live with Gradgrind. I think that instead of a formal education, Sissy has an education in life, in a sense that she understands feelings and emotions, things that you can't be taught inside a classroom. If you look back and analyze the adults that Sissy, Louisa and Tom all turn into respectively, it's easy to see where Dickens stands in the battle between fact and fancy. The only one of the three who didn't get a proper utilitarian education was the one whose life turned out the best. I think Dickens is suggesting that life comes after education, not the other way round. Things that aren't on the school curriculum still play a very important role in life, for example, feelings, emotions and imagination. Gradgrind better understands this towards the end of the novel and eventually comes to admit the failure of his system. Following Louisa's breakdown, Gradgrind comes to a realisation that things such as poetry, fiction and other pursuits are not "destructive nonsense". Gradgrind even begins to embrace the existence of the previously unknown thought of "fancy". ?? ?? ?? ?? Ryan Carse 12A 1 ...read more.

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