Dickens' Hard Times as a Critique of the Educational System

Powerful Essays
Dickens' Hard Times as a Critique of the Educational System

Industrialization made Victorian England a brave new world. A world bereft of justice, humanity and emotion. In Hard Times, Dickens critiques this world in several ways; it's pollution problems, factory accidents, divorce laws, utilitarian ideals, and educational system. The goal of this essay is to focus strictly on Dickens critique of the educational system which was influenced by Industrialization. In his novel, Dickens shows us how children were indoctrinated at very early ages that "facts alone are wanted in life" (47). "The Gradgrind school in Hard Times was modeled on the so-called Birbeck Schools inaugurated by William Ellis in 1848 to teach principles of political economy to poor children. . . " (Thomas 52). The children were taught that they were not to do anything or believe anything which is contrary to fact. The "Gradgrindian educational project is based on . . . Enlightenment intuitions" (Wainwright 179); wherein, all knowledge must be verified by science. Teachers even went so far to say that: "Taste, is only another name for Fact" (51). In Hard Times, Dickens "attacks [this] education built on statistics, figures and facts . . ." (Taine 33). Dickens criticizes the Victorian educational system because it dehumanized the children, killed fancy, and destroyed the importance of emotion.

The Victorian educational system dehumanized the children by treating them like mathematical figures. It sought to turn them all into little utilitarian robots who were only interested in facts. As the children enter the class, they are described as "little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of fac...

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Mutual Friend. Ed. Norman Page. New York: Macmillan Press, 1979.

Thomas, Deborah. Hard Times: A Fable of Fragmentation and Wholeness. New York:

Twayne Publishers, 1997.

Wainwright, Valerie. "On Goods, Virtues, and Hard Times." Dickens Studies Annual,

Vol. 26. Ed. Friedman, Guiliano, and Timko. New York: AMS Press, 1998.

The student may wish to begin the paper with the quote below:

"I am going, next month, to publish in one volume a story now coming out in Household Words, called Hard Times. I have constructed it patiently, with a view to its publication altogether in a compact cheap form. It contains what I do devoutly hope will shake some people in a terrible mistake of the days, when so presented" (Guiliano 893).

Charles Dickens in a letter to Thomas Carlyle, July 13, 1854
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