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GCSE: Hard Times

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  1. Hard Times - Would you agree, from your reading of the novel so far thatthere are some characters who are simply too good to be true?

    Both Bounderby and Harthouse contrast with the honourable characters of the novel, who are venerated by Dickens. Stephen Blackpool is the character who, it could be argued appears 'too good to be true'. We are initially introduced to Stephen as being someone who has had a hard, unfair life. A representation of the working-class known collectively as the 'Hands', Stephen has suffered a life of hardship, both in his work and in his marriage to an unfaithful drunkard. It is somewhat shocking then, when we first meet Stephen, that he is immediately portrayed as a kind, complacent man, who seems to show no hostility towards Mr.

    • Word count: 1136
  2. How does Dickens contrast wealth and poverty in the opening book of Hard Times?

    The above quote is describing Coketown, which houses the poorest segment of society and is filled with noise, grime, and smoke. While the description of Coketown does not specify the horrors of the 'Hands' working conditions, it does create a general impression of filth and noise. "not all the calculators of the National Debt can tell me the capacity for good or evil, for love, for patriotism or discontent for the decomposition of virtue into vice, or the reverse, at any single moment in the soul of one of these its quiet servants."

    • Word count: 2330
  3. "In Hard Times Dickens presents a convincing analysis of the social problems that have arisen in 19th Century industrial society" - To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    "You don't expect to be set up in a coach and six, and to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, as a good many of 'em do!" Dickens even goes so far as to suggest that the middle classes are over-privileged and enjoy luxury at the expense of the working class. "there seemed, however to have been a misadventure or mistake in Stephens life, whereby somebody else had become possessed of his roses, and he had become possessed of the same somebody else's thorns in addition to his own."

    • Word count: 1484
  4. Look carefully at the opening chapters of hard Times and explore some of the ways in which Dickens' attitudes to education are presented in these chapters.

    I think this because, for example, in the schoolroom, Gradgrind says "Facts, facts, facts. Nothing but facts." This suggests nothing else matters to him except facts and that there is no point in life unless you have facts. This also tells me that Gradgrind is quite bossy and he is telling the children not to talk about anything unless it's factful. Dickens also presents the teacher as having no imagination by the ay he talks to Sissy Jupe. "Don't call yourself Sissy.

    • Word count: 1392
  5. The book

    The poor quality of living was added to by the huge smoke clouds which hung over the cities. This "smog" made it hard to breathe and was so bad seeing things became harder. The book starts when Dickens introduces the characters; the first two chapters are short yet are scene-setters. Dickens explains that; Mr Gradgrind - a politician and schools owner, Mr McChoakumchild - a new teacher and Another man - we are not told who the man is or why he is present, are in a classroom full of children. Dickens describes Mr Gradgrind as being a square man and Mr McChoakumchild as a school teacher who was fresh for the factory which "makes teachers".

    • Word count: 2142
  6. Dickens' novel Hard Times is based in Coketown, a small industrial area. The story takes place during the industrial revolution in the early 19th century.

    He defines a horse perfectly and Sissy does not know. When the book first introduces us to M'Choakumchild he is not even given the dignity of a name, he is just the "third gentlemen" in the government office. As the chapter progresses we start to learn more about his character, in fact a whole paragraph is devoted to him but he is still only "The third gentlemen". When we first meet him he is said to be "A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was a government officer".

    • Word count: 912
  7. Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times in 1854, it was a political novel used to portray the situation in the Victorian times. The main issues in the novel are education, imagination, the Industrial Revolution and the void between the social classes.

    Dickens uses important imagery, such as the usage of the word square for Gradgrind's physical appearance repeatedly, 'he had a square wall for a forehead,' on page 1 then on page two he writes,' square coat, square legs, square shoulders.' These pieces of imagery build up a picture in our heads of a weirdly misshapen man who is described like this to make him a figure of comedy. The way that Gradgrind says,' facts, all I want is facts.'pg1. Gives Gradgrind the description of being eminently practical because of the way he wants the pupils all being the same in the way they work and having no flaws in his teachings.

    • Word count: 1939
  8. The purpose of this essay is to describe the characters of Mr. Thomas Gradgrind (Senior) in Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront.

    Due to this method of writing, we come to the same conclusions as Jane, i.e. we see Brocklehurst as a daunting, overpowering and intimidating man. During this first encounter with Brocklehurst, we discover his religious beliefs. He describes a five year old child who died and 'whose soul is now in heaven', and goes on to say that 'the same could not be said of you [Jane] were you called hence'. This harsh judgement comes not five minutes after he encounters Jane, and he has virtually no knowledge of her character. He also believes that the fact that Jane does not like the Psalms and calls them 'not interesting' proves she has a 'wicked heart...of stone'.

    • Word count: 3185
  9. 'The Children of Dynmouth' by William Trevor

    It is only Dynmouth's mysterious past, which brings the story alive. The town, the description of which lacks any kind of modification is a tedious and dying place and it seems only to attract the elderly seeking refuge on day trips. With this in mind Dynmouth although a cosy little place, does not appear to have a very certain future. In many ways Dynmouth and Coketown seem very different. On one hand Dynmouth has retained its past when it was once both a prominent and prosperous place, with only ageing amusements to show for it and in dire need of life and spirit seeming little more than a watering place.

    • Word count: 1283
  10. Compare the way Dickens presents Mr Gradgrind and the circus people in Hard Times

    Society also has a problem and this is brought up in this book. The divide between the social classes with the line between the rich and the poor widening in this day. The book exemplifies the fact that the rich get richer and the poor get just keep on getting poorer. Also there was a problem with the rich exploiting the poor, this was completely unfair, also it was an even bigger case than it turned out to be as nothing was being done to prevent it.

    • Word count: 1413
  11. 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?

    His face, voice and baldhead are all described as being very plain and very straight and "square". His clothing is also described as "square". When you think of square immediately you think it must be precise because a square is very straight and has to be done by a ruler. This gives you the impression that Gradgrind likes to be precise. He is portrayed as a huge figure of a man who could drive fear into the heart of any school child.

    • Word count: 1955
  12. Comment on the way in which Dickens presents the characters of Gradgrind, Sissy and Bitzer in Chs. 1 and 2.

    and we understand that Gradgrind is without any imagination or humanitarian feelings and is proud of it, seeing value only in measurable and incontestable "Facts". Dickens then presents us with two contrasting young people in the forms of Sissy and Bitzer. Once again he uses both the description of the room (Sissy...... came in for the beginning of a sunbeam of which Bitzer..........caught the end") and their contrasting physical appearances underline the differences between them. Sissy is given in sunny, colourful terms but Bitzer is described as cold and "unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge", encouraging the reader to value natural, human emotion over cold and bare facts.

    • Word count: 1502
  13. Hard Times is a novel written by Charles dickens

    Dickens uses satire to describe things, for example: 'red brick buildings, or at least they would have been if it weren't for the grime.' Dickens also used characters and their names as a way of attacking the educational and industrial systems. Thomas Gradgrind is a leading businessman in the town of Coketown. He is a good example of how things are run and done in Coketown, all based on facts. He says ' now what I want are facts,' and facts are what Mr.

    • Word count: 922
  14. What was Dickens’ view of Grangrinds’ School?

    The 'wide, thin, and hard set' mouth and 'inflexible, dry, and dictatorial' voice emphasise his inflexibility, straightness and dictatorial nature; his inflexibility and machine-like manufactured qualities are emphasised further by his 'square coat, square legs, square shoulders'. There is something uniformly dull, grinding and monotonous about Mr Gradgrind. Dickens uses emphasis in a surprising way, in that he makes the reader completely aware of the reasons for using emphasis and its effects. Usually emphasis is made somewhat unconscious to the reader - words or phrases are used which highlight certain aspects that the writer would like the reader to pay closer attention to, but we are never told that this is happening.

    • Word count: 1245
  15. What do you learn about the Education System though the book, “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens

    The children aren't being killed bodily; only the innocent part of them is being murdered, so that innocence and imagination never get in the way of their acceptance of the harsh realities of the dreary lives they are soon to face in the factory. This was the education style of the time. Firstly, we learn that the classroom is; "Plain, bare, monotonous vault," This description of the room gives us the impression that it is quite boring and intimidating for the children and you get the impression that it is never-changing.

    • Word count: 2061
  16. Childhood is an integral theme in both Hard Times and God of Small Things

    human condition, because their very fragility, without the adult illusion of control over life's fluidity, makes it obvious how vulnerable they, like their apparently less vulnerable elders, are to social, political and emotional phenomena that can devour their lives. While Dickens spreads the focus of the story over a larger range of characters than Roy, he still uses the children's emotions as a strong conveyer of the sentiment or moral of a scene and the story as a whole. A great example of this abuse of emotions is Louisa's continual sadness and confusion as she is bought up to act like a woman while still expressing the characteristics and mentality of a child or youth.

    • Word count: 2291
  17. Compare the roles of institutions in “A Kestrel for a Knave” and the works of Dickens

    The authors show their institutions as plain and bare. Dickens even goes, as far as to say that the school room in Hard Times is a "vault", not letting anyone in or out. "monotonous vault of a schoolroom" Dickens likes to use repetition of words. Especially "Facts" and "emphasis". He does this to show the squareness of Mr Gradgrind. Dickens does this to illustrate how he wants every thing to be regimented and perfect. Gradgrind had the premonition that all the children he schooled were only good for factory fodder.

    • Word count: 734
  18. Discuss the theme of education in ‘Hard Times’ and a ‘Kestrel for a Knave’.

    Cold hard facts, calculations and precision of everything were hammered in, producing uncharitable and 'hard' individuals, devoid of feelings or compassion. This theory was devised by the eighteenth century philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. He assumed that all human beings were motivated by nothing other than material values. The weaknesses are highly exposed as this philosophy is explored by Charles Dickens in 'Hard Times'. Dickens' view was influenced by many things, obviously what he saw going on around him, which was people turning into hard hearted machines, the effect of a utilitarian society.

    • Word count: 3402
  19. Select 2 or 3 episodes involving the circus, and show by what means Dickens uses them to develop a contrast between opposing values in Hard Times.

    Gradgrind and Bounderby go to see Sissy's father only to find out he has abandoned his daughter, it is then that Mr Gradgrind decides on the possibility of taking Sissy to his own home, and educating her in the ways of fact from there. Mr Bounderby and Mr Gradgrind get together during this time and have a conference of opinions based upon the fact and laws they have always followed, Gradgrind being softer at heart but still the fact machine at this point wants to take Sissy home, but Gradgrind can be heard to be saying "No. I say no.

    • Word count: 1041
  20. Hard Times - A Practical Criticism

    Here he addresses the monotonous and repetitive life of the worker, which is reminiscent of a factory assembly line. Dickens here seems to be a firm believer of the notion that we are just all bit parts in the machine called life. He represents this through the fact that the workers will allow their work and their greed and will to progress to occupy their life to such an extent that it engulfs them. And destroys their very life turning it into a robotic nightmare, as they are too transfixed with a detached goal that they themselves become detached from life.

    • Word count: 2817
  21. “In Hard Times exactly the same spiritual failings underlie the problems of industrial society, a mechanistic education system and the inability of men and women to achieve fulfilling relationships.’ Discuss

    This imagination or 'Fancy' is represented in Hard Times by the circus from where Sissy Jupe originates. The circus is cleverly juxtaposed with the school, which represents the rationalised society. Sissy had lived with horses for most of her life, however because she was unable to describe a horse in scientific terms, Gradgrind ridiculed her. He was unable to understand how she could simply know about a horse without being able to describe it as a "Graminivorous Quadruped." Bitzer (who was an ex-student of Mr M'Choakemchild's school) was observed to be "..a young man of the steadiest principle..on his father's death..this excellent young economist had asserted the right of settlement for her (his mother), with such steadfast adherence to the principle of the case, she had been shut up in the work house ever since."

    • Word count: 1986
  22. Hard Times was one of Dickens novels that focuses mainly on the education system and industrialisation.

    ?Coketown? suggests a very scary, dull and boring place, Dickens would have intended us to have this perception because this is how he saw the government?s way of teaching and he wanted us to perceive it in the same way that he did. He also wanted us to see through his description how monotonous and unhealthy the town and way of life in that area had become. Dickens describes the school in this novel as bland, containing no creativeness, or embellishment, a framework built purely on facts and reality alone.

    • Word count: 1603
  23. In Hard Times, Dickens uses a variety of devices to flesh out the characters he presents in order to make them unforgettable

    Gradgrind?s name can be interpreted as grinding students and his own children down with facts and logic, which he does throughout the story until his emotional encounter with Louisa. Mr. Slackbridge also has a very suggestive name because he comes to Coketown to start a union for the factory workers. His job is to be a bridge between the working class and the people who run the factory, however he just spurs outrage among the workers and doesn?t help their cause.

    • Word count: 915

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