I also think that Dickens wrote the novel partly because of his personal experiences, as he had a hard upbringing. The plot of the book features around a man called Mr.Gradgrind and how he believes children should be educated. He is a particularly serious character and I think that in the first chapter of the book, the readers are supposed to dislike him because of how he argues his points. For instance, he says things like, “Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life,” which make him sound extremely dictatorial. Dickens has also emphasised Mr.Gradgrind’s point by putting a capital letter at the beginning of the words “fact” suggesting that that is his key focus.
On the other hand people may argue that, as a benefactor for the local school he has a right to voice his opinions in this way, so that he can have some say in what goes on there. It is clear by what he says that he dislikes anything fanciful and believes that the school children should only be involved with things that are intellectual. I think that Dickens puts across his views on how children should be educated by the way he describes Mr.Gradgrind in the first chapter.
For instance he says, “the speaker’s square wall of a forehead,” and, “the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set,” which help to show Dickens’ opinion of Mr.Gradgrind and his ideas about facts. I think this description of Mr.Gradgrind is also written to describe his mind as well. This is because all of his features are described as being hard and square, just like his opinion on how children should be taught; clear and hard.
I do not think that Mr.Gradgrind can be accused of being a bitter man who wishes to take out his anger on the innocent children of the school, as he treats his own children in exactly the same way. I think that he just acts stern and cold because he has devised a system and is determined to make it work. Throughout the entire book, Dickens is constantly trying to prove his points through the characters he has created. On the one hand he shows the people who are oppressed by the other characters in the book, like Sissy, Louisa, Stephen Blackpool, and Mr.Sleary, being oppressed and put down by Mr.Gradgrind, Mr.Bounderby and Mr.M`Choakumchild. I think this character organisation is meant to represent the upper class mistreating and oppressing the working class, and so this is another method that Dickens shows his thoughts.
On the other hand, at the end of the novel, all the different characters experience different fates, for instance Bitzer, who is a quite unkind person to begin with still succeeds, Sissy who was oppressed becomes a quite cheerful person, and Mr.Bounderby who is not very likeable dies in the street. I think this is Dickens’ way of saying that different things happen to different people, regardless of their class. I think that the way Dickens has created a contrast between such unique characters is excellent as it makes the book more interesting.
At the centre of it all is Mr.Gradgrind, who controls the lives of his children, Sissy and Bitzer, in a way that the readers can tell is wrong by the way Dickens uses imagery and symbolism to describe him. For instance, in the first chapter the simile, “like the crust of a plum pie,” is used to describe Mr.Gradgrind’s head, which is obviously not a pleasant image. The name “Gradgrind” is also significant in that it is made up of very hard sounds, which relates to his personality as being a very hard headed man. This technique is also used to describe the teacher as his name is Mr.M`Choakumchild. The two words “choke,” and “child,” stand out from this name giving the impression that the teacher could possibly conduct physical harm on a child.
I think that it is important that Dickens has included two of the most fearful sounding characters in the first few chapters, as these chapters are based around the school. I think this is a method Dickens has used to try and convince the readers that the educational system in the story is wrong, and that Mr.Gradgrind’s views are wrong. The name of the second chapter, “Murdering the innocents,” is a clear statement from Dickens that the children in the school are being destroyed by the way Mr.Gradgrind wants them to be taught and therefore that his views are completely wrong.
In this chapter the two characters, Sissy and Bitzer are introduced by a clever use of imagery; “he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely whitewashed room, irradiated Sissy.” I think this imagery is interesting as it lets the readers know that Sissy and Bitzer are going to stand out in the book, and become quite important characters. Dickens creates Sissy to be a very likeable person in this second chapter because she comes across very polite and courteous, as Dickens says she does things like, “standing up, and curtseying.” I think he tries to make Sissy appeal to the readers as she is the very type of person who undermines Mr.Gradgrind’s system and so the readers then become more accustomed to the idea that it is wrong.