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.  

Mr Squeers sees his school more as a business than a school-learning environment. “This is our shop, Nickleby”.  

This quote shows that he is treating the school as a business because his primary objective is to make money.  He does not really care about the boys’ education, just as long as he turns over a nice profit.  As Mr Squeers is owner of Dotheboys Hall he decides how to teach the boys or not, as the case may be.

Mr and Mrs Squeers deeply dislike all of the boys in their school, except their own children.  In fact they perceive the boys as “their natural enemies”.   Clearly, if they see the boys like this then they are not fit to run a school but as it is their own school, they can do as they like.  Mr and Mrs Squeers both hate the boys.  “The only difference between them is that Mrs Squeers wages war against the boys openly whilst Mr Squeers tries to cover his rascality”.   I think Mr Squeers tries to cover his rascality because he knows that he is not treating the boys very well and should not be doing this.  

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However, don’t be fooled!  Mr Squeers hates the boys as much as his wife but Mrs Squeers doesn’t really look for an excuse to beat them – she just enjoys doing it.  

All of the boys at Dotheboys Hall are terrified of Mr and Mrs Squeers and live in fear of the dreaded cane which they both use to mercilessly beat them.  At the Hall, the boys don’t get much freedom and think what they are told to think.  They dare not argue or answer back to Mr Squeers as they are kept too weak and undernourished. ...

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