Dickens' Attitudes Toward Education in Hard Times
Throughout the novel "Hard Times", Dickens satirically attacks the
state of education of the 1800's. It written in 1854 which was close
to the time of the national education act (which ensured all children
went to school) was introduced. These schools however, were fully
focused on the teaching of facts. Dickens disliked this type of
teaching and expressed these views through harsh, unflattering
caricatures of some educationalists of the time.
The severe mocking of Mr. Gradgrind (a head teacher in the novel)
entertains and amuses the reader. His book is based on a biblical
theme (sowing, reaping and garnering) which is extremely relevant to
education as Dickens believed what is 'sown' in childhood is very
important to the rest of someone's life.
Firstly the separation of the novel: sowing, reaping and garnering
structures the book into three significant parts and also conveys
Dickens' underlying message. The terms represent Dickens' belief that
whatever a child learns or 'reaps' during the first years of their
life directly influences the rest of their lives. The divisions would
have also been very symbolic to a Victorian reader as they are related
to the biblical quote: "whatsoever you sow you shall reap". This would
have instantly been recognised as most people were very religious
during the time in which the novel was published. By using this,
Dickens therefore ensured had the reader's attention and agreement of
Also the novel was separated further because it was serialised into
weekly parts for a Victorian magazine. Consequently, each chapter was
written to end on a cliff-hanger because this would have given the
novel impact for a weekly reader. It also meant had to speed up the
storyline to make the book more dramatic and make the reader ponder
over what is to happen next.
The first chapter is significantly titled "the one needful thing".
Dickens employed this title to firstly summarise the chapter and
secondly show his attitude towards education. He believed that the
"one needful thing" in the teaching of children is creativity. Also
the title has a biblical theme which again, would have instantly been
noticed by a Victorian reader.
Throughout the first chapter there is strong repetition of various
nouns. "Emphasis" and "facts" have been used a number of times to
reinforce what Dickens is saying. The word "facts" was repeated each
time with a capital letter to emphasise how important the educating of
facts is to the teacher (Mr Grandgrind). However this over-emphasis
makes it obvious to the reader that Dickens is satirically mocking the
method of factual teaching.
Also the classroom is described as very dull and dreary by the use of
adjectives like "monotonous" and "bare". These words...