Education Reform Act

His lack of education shows us that he does not care about the boys’ own education, and proves he’s only in this situation because of the money. Every half year Mr Squeers makes the journey down south to the ‘metropolis’ (London). He visits parents of some boys to tell them how well their son is doing at school. The boys are so far away from home so he can get away with his cruelty and beatings upon the boys. “Bolders father was two pound ten short. Where is Bolder?” Bolder is very unhealthy looking boy with many warts and Squeers dislikes him because of this. He describes them a ‘disgusting’ and ‘dirty’ so he falls upon him and beats him.

Although Squeers did not physically beat Cobbey and Graymarsh, what he says hurts them just as much. Mr Squeers has no consideration for their feelings and shares upsetting and personal information with rest of the school. “Cobbey’s grandmother is dead, and his uncle John has took to drinking.” This is very insensitive and shows how low and callous he can scoop to. Nicholas Nickleby has become very dejected and feels dishonoured by the consciousness of his position after Squeers has finished reading the letters out and leaves the room. “Leaving Nicholas to take care of the boys in the schoolroom, which was very cold, and where a meal of bread and cheese was served out shortly after dark.”

Occasionally Wackford Squeers uses the cane, which shows his power over the children. “Arming himself with the cane.” This shows that he is ready to cane a boy if he does anything out of term. The boys know this and when they see him with his only weapon they know that one of then is about to be beaten decisively. If they reject the Brimstone and Treacle or if their parents did not pat they are beaten; Squeers is always there watching their every move waiting for one of them to put a foot wrong. “Let any boy speak a word without leave, said Squeers mildly, and I’ll take the skin off his back.”

And if he did: “Mr Squeers fell upon the boy and caned him soundly; not leaving off, indeed, until his arm was tired out.” This shows us that not only did he cane them he used his own weight and force to hurt them. Mobbs knows straight away that he is about to be beaten when Squeers calls his name. “During which he had moistened the palm of his hand again, won’t do. Cheerfulness and contentment must be kept up. Mobbs, come to me.” Like Squeers arms himself with the cane he is now preparing himself to beat Mobbs. Later on in the chapter Smike was expecting a blow from Nicholas at one point because he was planting some cinders on the fire. Surprisingly for him Nicholas said:

“You need not fear me, said Nicholas kindly. Are you cold?” Where as Mr Squeers would beat him then ask questions later, Nicholas asks him first and is concerned about him. Eventually Squeers has become one hundred percent successful in achieving his aims at Dotheboys Hall by the end of chapter eight. He has gained total power over everyone and has earned a lot of money in the process and as you know education is not his aim at the school.

The boys are very afraid and are submissive to him and his wife. However later on in the novel, Dickens does not want him to have total power anymore. When Smike is caught after running away he is brought back to Dotheboys Hall to be beaten. For this event he has bought himself a new cane, this shows how much pleasure he gains from punishing the boys. Smike is beaten in front of the rest of the school to show Squeers’ power and to show them what would happen to them if they attempted running away. Nicholas Nickleby cannot watch Squeers beat someone that he has become quite close to during his time at the Hall.

“I have a long series of insults to avenge.” Nickleby hits Squeers after he smacks him with the cane. A fight begins and the rest of the Squeers family join in. “He threw all his remaining strength in half a dozen finishing cuts.” Nickleby punches Squeers and knocks him out taking Mrs Squeers down with him too. However Nicholas is still concerned and bends down to check that he is still breathing. Readers obtain a lot of satisfaction from seeing the evil villain receiving their just desserts. This happens here when Nickleby hits Squeers for the final time, nevertheless the readers have to wait until chapter sixty-four until he is locked away. Nowadays readers would still enjoy reading about this kind of action, but not as much as in Dickens’ time because they did not witness it on the television.

As the novel reaches its closing stages Mr Squeers’ success rate falls rapidly as people become ware of his vindictiveness.”The news of Mr Squeers’ downfall had reached Dotheboys.” Mr Squeers is arrested and his wife is left to cope all on her own. The boys at this time have seen how she is not coping and begin to rebel against her. A riot breaks loose and the boys take revenge by force-feeding Mrs Squeers the Brimstone and Treacle she has made them eat so many times before.

Squeers’ cruelty and evilness all came to a close as his school is shut down, like many true schools of this kind. Following publication of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ some say that Dotheboys Hall was based on a true school in Yorkshire called Bowes Academy. William Shaw was the proprietor and he was just as evil as Wackford Squeers. William Shaw was also prosecuted and his school was shut down after on of the boys in his care went mysteriously went blind.

Dickens had always disapproved of the state of the education board during his lifetime. He loathed the way in which children were being abused at school and severely beaten. In the same year as Dickens died in 1870, William Forster introduced his Education Bill, which was the Education Reform Act of 1870. He aimed to open more schools and to make them much more enhanced. Dickens would have loved to see this happen, as he probably had a lot to do with the change due to the plot of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and his contributions before his death.

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