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What does Dickens have to tell us about education in Hard Times and how is this communicated through character, plot and his choice of language?

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Introduction

What does Dickens have to tell us about education in Hard Times and how is this communicated through character, plot and his choice of language? In Hard times we see two versions of the world of education. The first view is that of Thomas Gradgrind's and his "model school". A place where facts are valued and imagination is regarded as unimportant. This is the utilitarian view. The second view is contrasted with the utilitarian view and is that of Mr Sleary's circus. This is a place with much knowledge valuing both imagination and education. A place without the wealth of the Gradgrind's but much in humanity. This is the "fanciful" world. I think Dickens is telling us that there are many different ways of bringing up and educating children. It is about getting the right balance between education and imagination. For example Sissy was brought up by her father and didn't go to school but was quite well educated as she "used to read to him," but her father let her use her imagination as she read the "wrong books" from Gradgrind's point of view. Which were about "Fairies ... and the Hunchback and the Genies." But when she went to Gradgrind's house to live there she was cut off from having an imagination, as so was struggling to learn facts. The reader knows this as Sissy says, " I am - O so stupid!" when really she isn't stupid at all, it is just that she has been forced to be brought up the utilitarian way, which is the wrong way for her, as she is used to having a balance between education and imagination but Gradgrind hasn't allowed it. She "became low - spirited, but no wiser." This is because she has an emotional memory and so she can't learn the facts because she is being taught with a utilitarian view and so she can't attach a feeling to what she is being taught. ...read more.

Middle

Dickens also suggests that as she knew what was going to happen. She knew that she was going to be forced to marry him by Gradgrind. The reader feels this because, Gradgrind tells Louisa that "Bounderby would have seen you grow up under his eyes, to very little purpose, if he could so far forget what is due to your good sense," But it isn't just her father who is forcing her to marry Bounderby it is also her brother. Because Tom is living with Bounderby and earlier on in the novel, we saw that Tom and Louisa love each other and they would sacrifice things for each other. For example Tom says "I don't know what this - jolly old - Jaundiced Jail" "would be without you" so Louisa is being forced to marry Bounderby so she can be reunited with her brother. When Louisa asks Gradgrind for his advice Gradgrind answers "I would advise you ... to consider this question, ... simply as one of tangible Fact." She decides quite quickly to marry Bounderby but later on in the novel she meets James Harthouse. Dickens portrays Harthouse as untrustworthy as Dickens tells the audience using the narrative voice, through a description of Harthouse that, Harthouse "would put no more faith in anything than Lucifer" She ends up falling in love with Harthouse until Sissy persuades Harthouse to leave before he gets bored with her and dumps her. Dickens uses a lot of linguistic devices to illustrate the character. He gives the character names, which would be used in a theatrical play. For example the name "Gradgrind" can be spilt into two, the first part could mean gradually and the second part of the name could mean grinding away. Dickens also does this to Mr "Bounderby", which describes him as a cad or a bounder. Dickens uses alliteration "would be without you." He also uses irony. ...read more.

Conclusion

But on the other hand the one person who lived seven years of her live with not much education was "But happy Sissy's happy children loving her." This shows that the utilitarian education system didn't work for any of the characters My views of the education system in the 19th century are that the teachers didn't understand or care how the children learned more effectively, they assumed that they were doing the best for the children and didn't think of the consequences it could have. The teachers didn't listen to the pupils and didn't allow them to have imaginative ideas. I think that the reason Dickens wrote this novel addressing the issue of education is because he didn't like the education system as he was sent out of school, as his father couldn't afford to pay the bills. And while he was at school he realised that the education system was the wrong system for him and he would much prefer to be reading storybooks. Like the books that Mary Weller (Dickens's nanny) read to him as a child. This novel spoke to the audience to protest against the utilitarian way of bringing up children. As Dickens was a social protester himself he tried to give the audience a glimpse of what the future would look like if this form of education was to carry on. Another strong theme in Hard Times is family. I think Dickens was writing about this as it had had a very big impact on his childhood. This is because his father had been seen to jail because he couldn't afford to pay his debts. So Dickens had to be sent to a factory to work in polishing shoes. This deeply marked Dickens and so has was trying to tell us not to let families fall apart. I think that this novel is a fable as it has issues underneath the surface, which is telling you not to let the issues happen to you, and to protest against them. Phillip Taffley 1 ...read more.

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