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What is Dickens trying to tell us about education in the 1800s in his novel Nicholas Nickleby?

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Joe Bacchus/10Z What is Dickens trying to tell us about education in the 1800s in his novel Nicholas Nickleby? Mr Squeers is one of Charles Dickens' very vivid characters and one that plays an important role in the novel Nicholas Nickleby. He is owner and headmaster of Dotheboys Hall which is set in Greta Bridge in Yorkshire. Dotheboys Hall is a boarding school for disabled and illegitimate children. It is an all-boys school and Mr Squeers runs the school with extreme cruelty together with his wife, who is equally cruel. The children are sent there because they are disabled in some way and their families did not want them. Mr Squeers has very cunning ways and his only aims are to benefit himself. His main aim is to make money and he does this very well by being sneaky and taking short-cuts in the keeping of his school. He tries to put as little money as possible to Dotheboys Hall whilst getting as much money out as possible. Another of his objectives is to have the instant obedience that he desires. He wants a school where he has ultimate power over the boys so that when he asks something of them they do it immediately - with no question. He tries to obtain this instant obedience in school by regularly beating the boys with a cane. ...read more.


Mr Squeers hss not even replaced the windows with proper glass - he just puts old stuff he no longer needs in the frame just to save money. The school was so shabby that you couldn't even tell if Mr Squeers had attempted to make it look better. It is as if the building had just been made and left. No effort had been put into decorating the school to make it a better learning environment. "The walls were so stained and discoloured that it was impossible to tell whether they had ever been touched with paint or whitewash." This quote proves the point that the rooms at Dotheboys Hall are atrocious. In modern schools, this standard of decoration would not be acceptable and a school might even be closed down. Thankfully for Mr Squeers, he owns the school and only he decides what needs to be done. No-one else, except his wife, had any say in how the conditions of the school are dealt with and what they spend their money on. The boys at Dotheboys Hall might has well have been working on the floor as the equipment provided was terrible. "There were a couple of long old rickety desks, cut and notched, inked and damaged in every possible way." This quote shows how terrible the conditions were that the boys were working in. ...read more.


In today's schools it would seem as if Mr Squeers had his priorities wrong as the children's education should come first. Mr Squeers is very effective in getting the instant obedience he desires and obtains this by constantly threatening and intimidating the helpless boys. This keeps them on edge and because they are under-nourished and are not fed well they are all too weak to fight back against their cruel and scheming headmaster. Mr Squeers gets obedience from the boys by brutally beating them with this cane which keeps the boys living in such fear that they dare not answer back. In conclusion Mr Squeers is effective in getting what he wants but is not at all capable of being a head teacher. I believe that Charles Dickens has deliberately portrayed Mr Squeers as a greedy, despicable man because he wanted to show the people, who read his book what it was like to be in a school like this at this time in life. He wanted to show how ill treated physically deformed and children that their parents didn't want were and he also wanted to show how bad the education system was at that time. By 1870 the first ever education act was drafted by William Forster and I think this is what Charles Dickens wanted the out come of his book to bring- a better and fairer life for children who need it. By Joe Bacchus ...read more.

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