Hard Times: Book 1 Chapter 1 - Summary & Analysis

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Summary

Concept of Education: “Facts”

      Hard Times opens with a very short chapter that introduces the philosophy of education of a most leading character; Thomas Gradgrind (The name of the character is not mentioned in this chapter). The scene is of a school room where boys and girls are sitting. In addition, there are three elder persons - the speaker; the schoolmaster and a government official. The speaker is interpreting his concept of education. With laying more emphasis he says to schoolmaster to teach nothing but “facts” to the children. Only “facts” are essential in life, he states. “Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them and this is principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!” He further says, “In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!”.

      The exaggerated stress on “Facts” expresses author’s satirical treatment of Gradgrind’s views on education and his aggrandizement of facts. Speaker’s style and manner of state makes it more clear.

Critical Analysis

      The novel opens with very short chapter. It introduces us to the philosophy of education of Thomas Gradgrind. He puts immense emphasis on facts that enables us to understand that Dickens is satirizing the glorification of “facts”. The style of Gradgrind’s speech reflects the satirical intention of the author. Gradgrind’s peculiar physical build and behavior add more to the emphasis, for example his wide, thin and hard-set mouth, his inflexible and dictatorial manner of speaking and few hairs on bald head. He has a square wall of a forehead, with the eyebrows for its base, and his eyes get vast cellarage in two dark caves.

      The last sentence of the chapter is quite satirical and humorous as well. The school children are compared to small vessels, arranged in order and very well ready to receive any large account of facts till they are full to the brim.

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