The purpose of this essay is to describe the characters of Mr. Thomas Gradgrind (Senior) in Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronti??. Both are important characters, however Gradgrind is more crucial to the plot of Hard Times than Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre, as he appears only in the early chapters. Both authors use their language to show their opinions of the characters, and the societies in which they exist. The authors, especially Dickens, use the very names of the characters to portray their opinion of them.
Mr. Brocklehurst is a clergyman, and proprietor of a school for poor children. His doctrine for the education of the children in his school is similar in ways to that of Thomas Gradgrind as it is ‘not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying’, which is similar to the factual education of Gradgrind. We first encounter Mr. Brocklehurst when he comes to the house of Mrs.
Reed, Jane’s aunt, regarding Jane attending his school, Lowood Academy.
Jane (who is the narrator) described him as ‘a black pillar’ with a ‘grim face’ and his features and all the lines of his frame are said to be ‘harsh and prim’. This description, in the same way as that of Gradgrind, gives a clue to the persona of the character, giving an impression of a strict, severe man. Because the novel is written in the first person, from Jane’s point of view, we see Brocklehurst through her eyes, a deliberate device used by the writer to influence our opinions of characters.
had similar experiences in her youth to those of Jane in the novel, and so the feelings felt by Jane in the novel are probably the same as those of Bronti??. Due to this method of writing, we come to the same conclusions as Jane, i. e. we see Brocklehurst as a daunting, overpowering and intimidating man. During this first encounter with Brocklehurst, we discover his religious beliefs. He describes a five year old child who died and ‘whose soul is now in heaven’, and goes on to say that ‘the same could not be said of you [Jane] were you called hence’.
This harsh judgement comes not five minutes after he encounters Jane, and he has virtually no knowledge of her character. He also believes that the fact that Jane does not like the Psalms and calls them ‘not interesting’ proves she has a ‘wicked heart… of stone’. These harsh early judgements, however, are based on his religious beliefs and cannot yet be criticised, similarly to Gradgrind’s belief in Fact. Gradgrind, however, is not a religious man, as religion is not precise enough for him to accept.