In this essay I aim to look at how effectively Dickens presents his characters and themes in the opening two chapters of Hard Times. I am going to comment on his style and language in this response. Firstly I will analyse and then evaluate the text. I will look at a number of things including content, tone, rhythm, context, language and style. Hard Times is a narrative prose which Dickens writes using plenty of literary devices. Firstly I’m going to look at chapter one “The One Thing Needful” and chapter two “Murdering the Innocents.
” The first thing I noticed was the name of both the chapters were biblical phrases. The first chapter sets the scene in a “plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom. ” We know there are three adults present “the speaker, the schoolmaster and third grown man present. ” It is here that we learn that the narrator is a grown man but we don’t know anything else about him. During chapter two, we are still in the classroom, and we discover, the third grown man is called M’Choakemchild. However, we still don’t know the name of the narrator.
In the classroom, Gradgrind is questioning a young girl about her father’s job and horses. He then asks Bitzer, a boy who reels off a dictionary perfect definition of a horse. The class then talks about how you shouldn’t fancy anything and what you should and shouldn’t have on your wallpaper and crockery. Dickens gives a very detailed description of Thomas Gradgrind. However, before we meet him, we hear him talking to the class about how and what they should be learning “Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. ” From this we already have a perceived judgement of Gradgrind.
In chapter two, we get a detailed description of the training M’Choakemchild went through to be a teacher, so we have a preconception of what his teaching will be like. The whole of both chapters are written from a satirical perspective and it soon becomes obvious that Dickens detests this form of teaching. Dickens believes that Gradgrind doesn’t see these children as children but machines that are drained of all imagination and “had imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim. ” This becomes more and more increasingly obvious in chapter two.
Dickens tries to make the reader feel disgusted about this way of teaching by satirizing it. A good example of the satire used is the description of M’Choakemchild and how he is trained “he and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs… ” There is a very definite atmosphere that you can detect from the classroom throughout both chapters; it seems tense, and very still. Everything that Gradgrind says when arguing about how these children should be taught is very spurious.
In other words, because he’s very domineering and dogmatic it sounds sensible, but it lacks logic and sense. The opening two chapters of Hard Times have a very good rhythm and it flows very well. For example, during the description of Gradgrind every sentence started with “The emphasis was helped by… ” this helped to keep the reader interested in the description and it kept it as one description. The sentences are all quite short, making more impact e. g. “Stick to facts, Sir! ” Another quite abnormal thing is the word “fact” is nearly always giv en a capital letter “Fact.