Dickens’ presents The Victorian education system in ‘Hard Times’ in a fundamentally negative method, Dickens’ expresses the concept that having an imaginative element to our education is vital. He does this through satirising the education system and mocking the characters. Throughout the novel, it is a function of Dickens being satirical towards the education system.
Dickens opens the unique with a satirical description of Thomas Gradgrind and his utilitarian instructional techniques as he teaches the room loaded with trainees “Facts alone are desired in life” (9) Dickens satirises Gradgrind’s dedication to an education consisted of just of truths as Gradgrind overemphasizes that realities are the only necessary thing in life.
“Fancy” (14) symbolises imagination and marvel compared to facts. Dickens stress “Fact” more than he finishes with “Fancy” he does this by duplicating “fact” itself, sounds more powerful. Gradgrind’s view on education is his kids are to never imagine or question.
Gradgrind declines the concept of “expensive” or creativity; ‘fancy’ has absolutely nothing to add to understanding; only things that can be measured are necessary.
Gradgrind’s disapproving tirade on expensive “You don’t walk upon flowers in truth” (14) to the students underlines that fancy is bad and it ought to be “realities!” (14) In his satirical description of Gradgrind, Dickens’ aim is of what he experienced in the industrial England during his time when education varied greatly, according to place, gender, and class, indicating that Dickens view on Utilitarianism is revealed in a satirical way, and his beliefs stood out throughout the unique, this suggests how the education system was controlled.
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 he might have taught much more!” (15) This highlights that the utilitarianism system would function much better, if it were not so strung on facts. If Mr. M’Choakumchild had learnt less and been practically involved with his students more and would have taught far better. This is criticizing the way the system works. Dickens is suggesting that in the utilitarianism system, suggesting that ramming facts into students might not be the most effective way of teaching them. Not everything can be reduced to facts alone.
Mr Gradgrind and Mr Bounderby are the main representations of utilitarianism and followers of the system. In Louisa’s proposed marriage to Bounderby, Dickens shows us a disastrous consequence of Gradgrind’s system that denied everything but facts. “You have been accustomed to consider every other question, simply as one of tangible Fact” (97) This illustrates that Gradgrind, who is incapable of expressing his emotions effectively toward Louisa, edges her into a marriage with Bounderby by stating various facts and statistics to her. Louisa is hesitant to communicate her feelings towards him “she returned, without any visible emotion” (96) David Lodge’s ‘How Successful Was Hard Times?’ (1981) argues that Gradgrind’s ideology in his system is questionable, Lodge explains that it is a “primary index of what is wrong with his system” Mr Bounderby is also a character with utilitarian beliefs, doubtlessly one of the major characters that has a firm belief in the system, “you may force him to swallow boiling fat, but you shall never suppress force him to suppress the facts of his life” (23) He signifies the very essence of his ruthless principles that only has room for facts and statistics.
‘Hard Times’ outlines that a utilitarian approach to life is unsuccessful and costs those who follow their imaginations become robotic and inadequate to the system. Imagination and heart is found in the circus where Mr Bounderby and Mr Gradgrind despise “No young people have circus masters… or attend circus lectures about circuses” (23) Gradgrind implies that circuses are not like a practical schoolroom. Dickens represents Sissy Jupe as an influential character of the novel who presents the value of a warm heart and embodies feelings and emotions. She is seen as a complete failure of Gradgrind’s system. However Dickens and the reader judge her as a success. The young innocent girl mocked by the teacher and presented as the “dumb” girl in the start of the novel, gradually turns out to be the most key character in the whole novel. Since the foundational significance of fact and the removal of fancy that Gradgrind’s education obliges, Sissy Jupe will never succeed. Nevertheless, in spite of the education, Sissy becomes a young woman who is able to maintain her own principles and beliefs.
The contrasting descriptions of Sissy and Bitzer are shown in their appearance. For example Sissy is described as radiant and warm “dark eyed and dark haired” (11) referring to her as someone who is the face of vitality. However Bitzer is portrayed as “what little colour he ever possessed” (11) and “His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes” (11)) Demonstrating that he is cold and emotionless with no heart and all calculation. Dickens uses Bitzer to demonstrate that other students are influenced by him, showing that he is a follower of Gradgrind’s system, whereas Sissy is the foreigner to the system.
The Utilitarian education system relates to the industrial town ‘Coketown’ which consists of factories and “large streets … like one another … people equally like one another” (27) The town is linked to a “painted face of a savage” (27) that is described as barbaric and uncultured, the children are being deprived from the “ill-smelling dye” (27) Dickens suggests the society that the children/workers are living in is unsanitary “Jail” (28) indicating that they have no escape from their problems. The utilitarian system stamps out all imagination in the pupils and prepares them perfectly for the life of drudgery. Dickens describes as their lot as ‘hands’ in Coketown’s factories.
Education presented in ‘Hard Times’ is shown as satirical in Dickensian vision of Utilitarianism. This is because Dickens is able to create a fool out of the system cunningly. Furthermore it is certain that what Dickens has presented is humorous and convincing with making the utilitarian ideology seem absurd through the novel. I find David Lodge’s argument towards Dickens opinion as liberal and potent.