Compare Ch 1 & 2 of Hard Times to Ch 6 of Jane Eyre

Both authors Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens give determined attention to the bleak and hard aspects of life and, specifically, to the life of children. In the Chapters 1 & 2 of Hard Times to Chapter 6 of Jane Eyre, they vividly portray difficulties and hardship faced by many poor children at school. Thesis The chapters under analysis are based on similar settings and themes portraying educational system of the Victorian era, attitude towards children and their role in society.

In the chapters under analysis, the authors portray school life of the protagonists and their grievances. ‘Fact and Figures’ dominate in the chapters underlining the role of cramming in education. In Hard Times, in the opening scene in ‘a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom’, the dominant adjectives are ‘square, hard, dry’, and the first paragraph of Chapter 2 emphasizes this theme by using many of the declaratory titles which Dickens had contemplated giving to this novel. T.Gradgrind teaches children:

‘A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over” (Dickens). In Jane Eyre, girls follow strict rules during classes: “there were sundry questions about tonnage and poundage and ship-money, which most of them appeared unable to answer” (Bronte). Another important detail is that girls should read the Bible every morning which dictated social norms and social order.

In the chapters under analysis, the authors create a similar prototypes of teachers and educational systems typical for their times. As the first passage makes clear, the Gradgrind educational system and the ethos of the industrial town are at one in being designedly quite rightly if ‘The Gradgrind Philosophy’ is accepted – monotonous, and in embodying an aridly limited sense of life’s possibilities and priorities. But already one challenge to that ‘Philo¬sophy’ has appeared the circus at which the Gradgrind children are caught peeping.

The same philosophy is followed by Miss Scatcherd who supposes that a teacher should be severe and irreconcilable to pupils’ faults. Jane comments: “it seems disgraceful to be flogged, and to be sent to stand in the middle of a room full of people” (Bronte). A doctrine of Christian endurance is similar in the chapters. Both authors pay a special attention to the process itself and organization of education. They underline that educational process should be based on daily activities and planning process.

The chapters though starting in a schoolroom are concerned with more than education but growing up and new perception of the world. Success for the protagonists means fight in whatever direc¬tion. To the attainment of any end worth living for, a symmetrical sacrifice of their nature is compulsory upon children. Jane comments: “I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathize with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser” (Bronte).

Pressure of schooling and severe attitude of their tutors forces the children to mature and understand the role of religion and schooling in their life. The children speak as mature adults which unveils their independent thinking and mature personalities. Readers quickly sense the inevitability of the children’s movement towards savagery, though the authors relate the novels with such economy and intensity that its predictability does not become monotonous. In these chapters, both children assume leadership for their calm rationality.

“Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes: among them Sissy Jupe” (Dickens). In the chapters, both authors use characters of children in opposition to the main characters. This technique helps them to underline the importance of liberation in the world of cruelty and misunderstanding. In sum, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens portray that suffering is undergone in order to expand the human spirit, to delve into matters previously kept hidden, to grow through pain. They grow up into small adults emulating the ‘real’ world they have left behind and to which eventually they return.

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