In this essay I will be talking about the education in the Victorian era compared to the education students receive today. I will also be looking at the characters in the opening chapters, Dickens’ use of language and he wider historical context. This book was written in 1854 so Dickens’ here has a first hand view of what he is writing about. In that era, education wasn’t as important as it is today, not many girls even went to school. This was because girls’ roles didn’t seem as important as males’ did in society.
It was thought that the majority of women would stay in the cooking, cleaning and looking after the children, and for that no education was required. Also it wasn’t common to find as many schools around the country as you do today. The majority of children were in workhouses or factories, for low pay and bad accommodation. What’s more education seemed to be based on facts. Unlike it is today. Rationalism was a predominant change in society to all schools because it was the facts that seemed most important and not the way the children thought or imagined but the way things were according to facts.
This was because utilitarianism was put into act. The majority of people wanted the facts to be taught to children and was the way things had to be. This is because utilitarianism education was based on an idea to please the most quantity of people. The first two characters we meet in the book seem to support the idea of rationalism greatly. Mr Gradgrind and Mr Choakumchild are the names of these first people we encounter. The fact that they are all by themselves suggest to us that they are not ordinary men.
Let’s take Mr Gradgrind’s name first. His name suggests that he likes to work children very hard and make sure that they do what he tells them which is exactly what you find out about him. With Mr Choakumchild his name seems that little bit more violent this is what you can gather from when you first read the name. He sounds like a man that will choke children to make sure they do what he wants although he does come across as the more quiet man in the opening chapters..
You can tell by both their backgrounds you can tell that they equally agree on the idea rationalism from the beginning of the first chapter all Mr Gradgrind can speak is facts which he doesn’t fail to repeat time, after time, after time. This repetitiveness does get quite tedious but after a while you get the point. This is that Mr Gradgrind is only interested in facts and that’s what he wants to fill the children with. He describes the children as two things, “vessels” and “pitchers”. He also says they are empty and need to be filled with facts.
Both Mr Gradgrind and Mr Choakumchild like the idea of having. Although, the author Charles Dickens opposes the ideas of rationalism and utilitarianism, and the two characters personify that. But writes the book on how these two different changes in society effected the 19th century. We meet two of the pitchers Gradgrind describes one is a girl and the other is a boy. The children we meet are called Sissy Jupe and Bitzer they are both in Mr. Gradgrind’s class but know totally different things. Starting off with Sissy when Mr. Gradgrind asks her name, after calling her girl number 20, she replies Sissy.
At once Mr. Gradgrind leaps into his controlling mode and tells her that she should be called Cecilia because it is her real name. “Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia”. He also tells her father has no right to call her Sissy. This tells people he is a very controlling man, he is the one who has no right to tell Sissy what she is to be called, but he thinks he has the power to. Sissy is referred to as a bad pupil and thought to be ignorant but very healthy; she has good colouring in her skin and the sun shone on her quite nicely form the window.
The reason Sissy is a bad pupil because of the answer she gives Mr. Gradgrind. He asks her what a horse is and she doesn’t now how to define a horse in his terms and becomes quite alarmed. Mr Gradgrind looks upon her and tells the class she, “that possesses no facts in reverence to one of their commonest of animals”. He than asks another pupil in the class his name is Bitzer. This boy has a difference in appearance to Sissy. He has paler skin and the way the sun shone on him didn’t bring out his best colour.