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What is Mr Gradgrind's view of schooling as expressed in the first three chapters of 'Hard Times'? How do you think Charles Dickens' style of writing helps us to understand this?

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Introduction

Ravi Aggarwal GCSE English Coursework What is Mr Gradgrind's view of schooling as expressed in the first three chapters of 'Hard Times'? How do you think Charles Dickens' style of writing helps us to understand this? The novel begins with a paragraph of direct speech which we find out later is said by Mr Gradgrind. It is a speech full of irony because he is saying that they should teach the children facts and not let them think for them selves of develop an imagination; "Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts." It is unusual because the man actually seems to believe what he is saying and believes that it is the best way to educate children; "Facts alone are wanted in life." This opening paragraph immediately gives us a direct impression of Mr Gradgrind and his philosophy of facts. Some might interpret Dickens' description of him as slightly insane and obsessed with facts. We as the reader know that more than facts are needed in a good schooling and therefore we realise what an idiot Mr Gradgrind really is. We can compare the description of the schoolroom and the description of Mr Gradgrind and find that they are both very similar to each other. They are both described as being "square", "plain" and "bare". The schoolroom is probably like this because Gradgrind does not want the room to be colourful but just plain and monotonous which suits his teaching methods. ...read more.

Middle

If anyone read his definition they would not be able to guess that the boy was describing a horse as to any normal person it would mean absolutely nothing. Dickens makes a connection between paleness and life. Bitzer, who is very pale, has no life in him as it has all been taken away from him by Gradgrind's harsh regime. Sissy Jupe, who is very pretty and full of character, has a lot of life in her as she is new to the school and therefore is new to Gradgrind's regime. Gradgrind takes an immediate disliking to Sissy Jupe or "girl number twenty" as he refers to her. He even dislikes her name and orders her to call herself Cecilia. Gradgrind makes up his mind about her when she begins to talk about her father's profession, which is totally unacceptable for Gradgrind because he is in the entertainment business which is totally against Gradgrind's beliefs. One word, which Gradgrind seems to hate, is "fancy" because when Sissy mentions it he immediately scolds her for using that word. This probably because if you fancy they you imagine something you might like and of course Gradgrind's teaching method is the complete opposite of using imagination. Gradgrind regards both his school and his own children to be models of what he thought all people should be. He had raised his children on facts, just like his students. While other children were playing with toys, his had been solving mathematical problems and learning science with their "cabinets in various departments of science" which seems to be like a museum in their own homes. ...read more.

Conclusion

We also learn how his teaching regime is hurting the children because Louisa says "I was tired, father. I have been tired a long time". Louisa is unaware about what is wrong with her which shows that she is rather pathetic and ignorant. As Gradgrind drags his children home at the end of chapter three he scolds his children and Dickens labels them as "two delinquents" which suggests that they are going to be in big trouble. He repeats "What would Mr Bounderby say?" a few times, which shows that he has respect for him and is trying to copy him and looks to him as a role model who would scorn at Gradgrind if he found that his children went to the circus. He possibly sees Mr Bounderby as a possible future husband for his daughter Louisa so that is why Louisa looks at her father when he mentions his name. Gradgrind wants all the children in the school and his own children to be modelled on Mr Bounderby because he looks up to him and admires him a lot. The way he does this is by using this awful teaching method, which we can see is harming the children. This teaching method is that the children must only learn facts and nothing else in the view that it will make them good future workers in the factories where the entire workforce will be the same with no personality and be modelled on Mr Bounderby. Gradgrind means well but is unaware his philosophy of education is wrong and that it actually damages the pupils both mentally and physically. ...read more.

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