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What was Dickens’ view of Grangrinds’ School?

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What was Dickens' view of Grangrinds' School? In the first chapter of the book Gradgrind's school is described as a 'plain, bare, monotonous vault', and this is clearly Dickens' perception of every aspect of the school. The schoolroom itself, described as a vault, does indeed have an airless, imaginationless quality to it. It is not a place for young minds to grow and develop; more a place where imaginations can be caught in the bud before they have a chance to flower, and the minds to be planted with bare, airless facts instead. The image of Gradgrind himself is an imposing and threatening one. Dickens' portrays him as a cartoon-like caricature, with seemingly no averagely human qualities at all. Much like a machine, Mr Gradgrind is programmed to perform certain tasks - filling both his own children and those at his school with facts, for example - and does not stray from those tasks to indulge in any fruitless imagination or thinking. He is an exceedingly odd looking man, and one feels that his appearance, as well as his personality, has been blown up into cartoon form to emphasise those features of his personality that Dickens' wants to draw to our attention. ...read more.


Unable to relate to anything that is not basic fact, he also makes a point of categorising Sissy's father into 'a veterinary surgeon, a farrier and horse-breaker.' This is not exactly the description that Sissy gives, but it is evident that Gradgrind has great difficulty in dealing with things that have not been properly categorised into the correct drawer of his brain first. Chapter 2 is headed 'murdering the innocents', referring to murdering the imaginations of the children, by treating them as 'little vessels...ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them'. However, facts are all the children are filled with. They are not given the opportunity to learn anything about the real world, as is seen when Sissy Jupe and Bitzer are brought into the story. Sissy is new to the school and lives with a travelling circus, where her father (as categorised by Gradgrind) looks after the horses. When asked, "Give me your definition of a horse", however, she is unable to comply. She presumably knows everything about horses in reality - their likes and dislikes, how to care for and treat them etc. ...read more.


The reader is therefore encouraged to feel, although sympathetic to the whole class, particularly protective of Sissy because of the impending fate that will befall her carefree, imaginative and above all childlike world. We are also encouraged to feel sympathy for Gradgrind's own children, who are 'educated' in the same way as his other pupils. However, his daughter Louisa has somehow managed to retain at least some of her imagination, and takes her brother to peep through the fence at the circus that has arrived in town. (Bringing with it Sissy Jupe). She is reprimanded severely for this, and her father has an obvious complete inability to understand in any way what could have driven her to such a 'degraded position', as to be interested in something that was so clearly not fact. The fact that Gradgrind educates his own children in this way shows how fervently he believes in his methods, although he gives the impression of believing because he has been programmed to, rather than because he thinks it will be best for the children. All in all, Dickens' view of the school as run by Mr Gradgrind is an extremely depressing one, of a place where children are stripped of their imaginations and childlike demeanours to make room for facts which are, as proved by Sissy Jupe, mostly useless in reality. ...read more.

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