Explore Dickens presentation of education in Hard Times and comment on how this reflects a Dickensian vision of Utilitarianism

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Zahraa Gooljar

Explore Dickens’ presentation of education in Hard Times and comment on how this reflects a Dickensian vision of Utilitarianism

Dickens’ presents The Victorian education system in ‘Hard Times’ in a fundamentally negative way, Dickens’ expresses the idea that having an imaginative aspect to our education is essential. He does this through satirising the education system and mocking the characters. Throughout the novel, it is a purpose of Dickens being satirical towards the education system.

Dickens opens the novel with a satirical description of Thomas Gradgrind and his utilitarian educational methods as he teaches the  room full of students “Facts alone are wanted in life” (9)  Dickens satirises Gradgrind’s commitment to an education comprised only of facts as Gradgrind exaggerates that facts are the only essential thing in life. “Fancy” (14) symbolises imagination and wonder compared to facts. Dickens emphasise “Fact” more than he does with “Fancy” he does this by repeating “fact” itself, sounds more forceful. Gradgrind's view on education is his children are to never imagine or wonder. Gradgrind rejects the concept of "fancy" or imagination; ‘fancy’ has nothing to contribute to understanding; only things that can be measured are important. Gradgrind’s disapproving rant on fancy “You don’t walk upon flowers in fact” (14) to the students underlines that fancy is bad and it should be “facts!” (14) In his satirical description of Gradgrind, Dickens’ aim is of what he experienced in the industrial England during his time when education varied vastly, according to location, gender, and class, meaning that Dickens view on Utilitarianism is shown in a satirical way, and his beliefs stood out throughout the novel, this indicates how the education system was controlled.

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Dickens uses characters’ names to continue his satire of the utilitarian education system prevalent in Victorian Britain. Mr Gradgrind breaks into the word “Grind” as a means to crush, signifying his method of grinding down the students’ individuality and any imagination they may have entered the school with. Mr M’Choakumchild, breaks into “me, choke, child” Dickens’ exaggerates with the name as we don’t think the new teacher is literally choking the children in his care, that this Fact-obsessed creature will only choke imagination and feelings out of them. “If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better be ...

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