Mr Chokumchild questioned the pupils to see the extent of their knowledge. However, the teaching was not based on common sense, opinion or useful information, but instead the hierarchy within the school community had decided to base the children’s education entirely on facts. Chokumchild would question the children, “Like a cannon”, this simile compares the master to a weapon, ” Loaded to the muzzle with facts”, ready to shoot out facts and explode all of the opinion and imagination out of the children.
This utilitarian approach quashed the young minds and meant that any opinion was unable to develop. I felt this to be a powerful and sad suggestion that the teachers, who are meant to encourage, aid and guide a child’s personality, are instead, slowly destroying them by belittling and moulding them to become quiet and incomplete individuals. The system is upturned however; when a young Sissy jupe is asked to give her definition of the word circus but instead gives her own interpretation.
This event causes outrage and displays just how petty and unappreciative Mr Gradgrind is of this style.
Though this notion illustrates elements of truth, Dickens is slowly beginning to build sympathy with the reader and thus forming an engaging bond. The pupils are ironically described as busy insects, suggesting they are no more intelligent or able than the small insignificant creatures that roam at our feet, to be crushed at our will. A second simile is used comparing the youths to “little vessels… ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim… ” This suggests again, how the children are small worthless objects which the tutors can shape and manage how they want.
Despite Dickens’s determination to provide a serious insight, the situation is lightened by a humourous comment which lifts the mood of the scene, ” You might hope to get some nonsensical belief into Gradgrind. ” This small phrase is a very important use of satire as it is manipulating the emotions of the reader to approach the situation from a different perspective and not be overly concerned about the maltreatment of children. Following this, Dickens continues and to further exaggerate the master’s control and power, he provides detailed demon-like descriptions of the tutor.
“The speaker’s Square wall of a forehead which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves. ” This intimidating phrase describes the sharp piecing gaze of the speaker by using icy cold adjectives and alliteration to exaggerate and define the master’s control and power. Despite these details and elaborate descriptions such as, “monotonous vault of a schoolroom,” Dickens paints a clear and unbiased view of the layout and arrangement of the class room.
“Plain, bare and dark” are all truthful adjectives which are honest and accurate. Orthography and etymology are both real subjects which were studied by the Victorians. These are mentioned to add a sense of authenticity to the scene and distract us from concentrating completely upon the underlying faults and floors with system. Once again the mood changes toward the end of the second chapter and Dickens expresses his anger and serious thoughts about the system. These fluctuating mind-sets are exciting for the reader and provide an emotional rollercoaster of thoughts.
Victorian school was lifeless and dull which is why it’s so difficult for us to distinguish between fact and exaggeration. I believe it is this ambiguity and use of humour and exaggeration which enables Dickens to tackle this issue with such ease. Successful imagery and descriptions allows us to perceive the situation invite us to form our own opinion about the state of the education system. This provides us with and intriguing and sophisticated beginning to the book.