Dickens novels

Dickens keeps using repetition to bore us from Gradgrind, which continues the idea that he is a boring man. Dickens also starts each sentence with ‘the emphasis was helped by… ‘ and by emphasising the emphasis he’s creating a double effect. Gradgrind’s lips are described as ‘thin and hard set’. Usually thin lips are considered to be unattractive and aggressive. His voice is ‘inflexible and dry’ showing us the dullness of it as he gives his orders. Gradgrind’s hair is described as being ‘covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie. ‘ This makes him start to look like a caricature.

This whole image is unpleasant for children to see everyday. After all of this description of Gradgrind, Dickens repeats a sentence from the first paragraph to remind us of the style of the speaker, ‘in this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts! ‘ once again we see a description of the children, ‘little vessels; ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they are full to the brim. ‘ Dickens is describing them using a dehumanising effect. They are being treated less as human beings and more as objects being forced to sit and learn so that they can be stuffed with facts.

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Chapter two continues with a detailed description of Gradgrind. ‘A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four and nothing over. ‘ This paragraph has no flare or enjoyment and the sentence in particular reflects upon Thomas Gradgrind’s personality. Dickens can communicate with the readers and convey the character’s personality by delivering his sentences in a slow, boring and dull manner. Another sentence reflecting upon Gradgrind’s attitude to life is ‘with a ruler and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, ready to weigh…

‘ This sentence is describing his attitude to life and people in a sense that everything has to be precise and perfect. The ruler and scales are metaphorical. It means he tries to measure everybody. Dickens reduces it to mathematics and he relates that with Gradgrind weighing up what the children say. In another paragraph, Gradgrind’s eyes are described as cellarage again for emphasis. ‘He seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge’.

Here Dickens takes on the language of warfare and suddenly we move from a slow dull description of Gradgrind to a powerful description of destruction and speed. Once more the children are objects as Gradgrind call to a girl and labels her as ‘Girl number twenty’. He shows no concern at all for the children and there’s no warmth or care in his tone of voice as he says, ‘I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl? ‘ Dickens shows us his distaste for the system through the way he presents Gradgrind to us. Dickens effectively continues to call her ‘girl number twenty’.

Girl number twenty turns out to be Sissy Jupe, an innocent new girl whose father works at a circus. As she explains herself, she curtseys, showing us how polite she is. She is very symbolic in the story because she’s the only child who hasn’t been fed with facts. She also lives with a circus where everybody is used to looking out for each other. A circus symbolises a circle, complete, perfect and whole, which is opposite to a square. After Gradgrind tells her that Sissy isn’t a name, she explains it’s her father who calls her that. By doing so, she is telling him that the ultimate authority over her calls her by this name.

She also says it in a trembling voice, meaning she anticipates there’s a problem and so she curtseys again in an attempt to not start an argument. Gradgrind then dismisses this and asks Sissy, ‘what is your father? ‘ straight away we can tell that he labels her father as an object and asks what he is, not who he is. When Gradgrind finds out that her father works with horses, he tells Sissy not to talk about it anymore because he thinks it may influence the children to be creative. Sissy Jupe comes from a circus and a circus revolves around fantasy, trickery and imagination.

This is all opposite to Gradgrind’s system of facts. After a while, we get a sense that Gradgrind is trying to trap the girl, especially when he says, ‘give me a definition of a horse. ‘ She is alarmed by this because obviously she has never been taught to memorise facts at such a young age and she breaks down. He has no sympathy or sensitivity which is how Dickens shows us the system is cold and harsh. Gradgrind continues to single sissy Jupe out and treat her as an object. He still calls her by her number, not name, ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts!

‘ by using the word ‘possessed’, Dickens makes the reader immediately think of an object being possessed of something evil. Dickens portrays Gradgrind as a monster when he shows him pointing his finger which gives a sense of aggression. Gradgrind is sexist in this part of the novel because he looks for ‘some boy’s definition of a horse’. Finally he chooses a boy called Bitzer and once again Dickens uses the names of the characters to convey their personality. The name Bitzer, when looked at closely would mean ‘bits of’ knowledge and probably very little of anything else.

Before we hear Bitzer’s definition, we get a very detailed description from Dickens. He says the sun was darting in through the ‘bare window’, implying no curtains and a ‘whitewashed room’ which indicates how functional and yet useless it is because it gets dirty very easily. A very effective sentence from the paragraph is, ‘whereas the girl was so dark-haired and dark-eyed, she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed.

‘ Dickens portrays the sun here as a life giver because when it shines on Sissy, its enlightening and enriching whereas when it shines on the boy, it seems deadly, as if it’s sucking the life out of him. This shows contrast between them. Once again, without showing it, Dickens is likening the children to plants because when the sun shines on Sissy, it’s the perfect amount for photosynthesis for her to grow. When it shines on Bitzer, it’s too much, so there’s a drought. When Bitzer gives his definition of a horse, Dickens makes him sound like a machine because he uses short, quick sentences such as ‘Quadruped.

Gramnivorous. ‘ After a few sentences of facts about horses, Dickens ends the paragraph by saying, ‘Thus (and much more) Bitzer. ‘ By doing this, Dickens is saying ‘I can’t tell you any more facts; basically this boy ahs swallowed a dictionary. ‘ Gradgrind addresses Sissy again and says, ‘Now you know what a horse is. ‘ Dickens uses irony in this because obviously she knew from the beginning what a horsed is. Dickens tries to make us feel sorry for the girl because that way, we will hate the education system.

He does this by showing how Sissy Jupe curtseys again, giving us an idea of how well brought up and polite she is. She’s also very emotional and has been blushing all this time. Bitzer is once again described in an unflattering manner, his eyelashes as the ‘antennae of busy insects. ‘ The first word that comes to mind is irritating, for example a mosquito buzzing around. We are then introduced to the third man in the room, a government officer, and as he steps forward, there is a tense atmosphere.

He is a ‘professional pugilist’ which shows us that he is aggressive and wants to fight. He asks the children whether they would ‘paper a room with representations of horses. ‘ We know the children feel threatened by this man because they answer after a pause. Here Dickens is stereotypical in the sense that it’s a fat and slow boy who comes up with the sensible remark. He says he ‘wouldn’t paper a room at all but paint it. ‘ Gradgrind is irritated when he suggests this because instead of coming up with facts, he thinks creatively which is against the system.

The teaching system is a failing one because they a re telling the children how they should think. This isn’t a proper way of teaching because they give the children no room to think for themselves individually. Sissy Jupe is once again a victim as Gradgrind and the officer pick on her because they see her as an easy target. They ask her why she would carpet her room with flowers. She answers them very politely, saying ‘if you please, sir. ‘ Dickens shows us his distaste for the system through Gradgrind and shows us how children should be taught through Sissy Jupe.

She explains that she would do it because she’s fond of flowers and she would ‘fancy’ them but she stops there because she’s interrupted by the gentleman. He interrupts her because she is talking about fantasy and imagination. She isn’t allowed to speak her mind openly and creatively. The man is totally oblivious to the psychological fact that you can get pleased by things you like to look at. Afterwards, a new teacher, Mr M’Choakumchild is introduced to give his first lesson there. Again, his name can be interpreted as choking a child – in the sense of imagination.

Dickens lists the subjects that the new teacher knows in one whole paragraph and at the end he shows his distaste by telling us how the system has ruined him. Dickens then addresses M’Choakumchild with a question which is very effective, ‘dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within – or sometimes maim him and distort him. ‘ In other words, he is asking him, ‘do you actually this system is going to work or are you just going to do more damage to their minds? ‘ In Chapter three, Dickens uses repetition which is emphatic.

He does this to show us how irritating it is. Also this reflects on how they teach, they keep repeating words and facts. Describing Gradgrind’s children, he says, ‘as soon as they could run alone, they had been rushed to the lecture room. ‘ A popular saying that comes to mind is ‘don’t run before you can walk. You shouldn’t rush the children; just let them learn for themselves. Dickens uses chilling words to describe how they had been brought up. An ‘ogre’ which is unfriendly, is used to describe their teacher who is ‘chalking ghastly white figures’ which they have no idea what they are.

Dickens uses another effective method of showing his distaste, by correcting himself, ‘not that they knew’. He says they wouldn’t even know of an ogre because they only learn facts. He also starts every sentence in paragraph four with the words ‘no little Gradgrind. ‘ There is a sentence which has a lot of rhythm, ‘that famous cow with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who killed the rat who ate the malt. ‘ The rhythm in this sentence energizes us and it’s a sudden change from Dickens droning on about Gradgrind’s children and facts.

It shows is how the rhyme is comforting and enlightening. Gradgrind’s home is called Stone Lodge. Again Dickens uses a twist with names in this novel. The ‘stone lodge’ is metaphorical as the lodge is something immovable and the stone is something cold, hard, dull and miserable – reflecting the teaching system. Stone Lodge is set on a moor in Coketown, which is significant because a moor is a piece of bare land. This shows us how Gradgrind has nearly always lived in plain and bare surroundings and still uses it in his everyday life with the teaching system.

The house is described as having a ‘heavy portico darkening the principal windows’ which reminds is of Gradgrind’s eyes. We get a sense that the house is practical and created in his image. After a detailed description of the house, Dickens uses irony by saying it is ‘everything that heart could desire’. In the description of the house, there’s no luxury or intimacy as Dickens focuses on the math and geometry of it all. Dickens also reminds us of Sissy Jupe and what Gradgrind did to expose, ridicule and humiliate her.

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