Charles Dickens & Victorian education

Dickens is even expressing his opinions on Victorian education with the names of the characters in Hard Times. The name ‘Thomas Gradgrind’ for instance is a metaphor for the teacher is doing to these children.

He is working like a machine and grinding them up so that what is left of them is nothing but facts. ‘Mr.M’choakumchild’ is symbolising that the lessons of ‘nothing but facts’ are choking the children of all individuality and creativity, ‘Bitzer’ is a child that has taken in the teachings of facts and had become nothing but ‘bitz’ of facts and ‘Cecilia Jupe’ whos name comes from Cecilia the patron saint of music, a form of creativity and a way of expressing yourself, is showing how a child is before they have been filled with facts.

The use of exaggeration is carried on in the descriptions of the characters. ‘The speaker’s square wall of a forehead…

, square coat, square legs, square shoulders… ‘ Now obviously the teacher is not an actual square but Dickens emphasizing the squareness of his body is another way in witch he is mocking the whole way of teaching.

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The teacher is talking about facts and the square itself is a fact. Something is either a square or not a square. You can’t be imaginative and have a 5 sided square, or you can’t have a square with one side longer than the other as it will be no longer a square, so it’s no longer a fact.

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A square is exact, just like a fact.

The teacher has no imagination and is exact in the way of his teaching of facts, the way in witch millions of other teachers would have been taught. The way Dickens describes the characters with metaphors is a way of expressing his views on the system. ‘He seemed a galvanising apparatus to… ‘ A galvanising machine uses electric shock therapy to erase parts of people’s memories. It is a horrible and extremely painful form of torture. Dickens is telling us that the teachers are trying to wipe these children clean, turning them blank so that they can be re-written with facts.

Saying that the lessons are a form of torture is again using exaggeration, but there is truth behind it as well as they are attempting to clear the children’s mind of everything but pure facts. The children Bitzer and Cecelia are before and after images of children in these schools. ‘But whereas the girl was dark-eyes and light-haired, so she received a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun when it shone upon her, the boy was so light eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed…

; Cecelia, who does not attend school regularly so has not been pumped full of facts, is healthy and beautiful, while Bitzer who has been attending school regularly is pale and ill looking. He appears to have the life sucked out of him. Dickens had described the children this way to establish an idea in out heads of what a daily dose of facts and nothing but facts and a life without creativity and joy will do us. Irony is used in the opening chapters and Charles Dickens used this to make us to realise how unsuitable the way of learning is.

‘”Girl number twenty unable to define a horse! ” said Mr. Gradgrind,’ This is ironic, as Dickens has gives us background information on the character Sissy Jupe (girl number twenty) and we know her father is in the trade of travelling and working with horses. She has grown up watching and being hands with the horses her father works with. Yet Bitzer gives a very factual response to the question and has properly never been near a horse in his life.

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Charles Dickens & Victorian education. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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