In the novel, Dickens presents education in a very old fashioned way. Thomas Gradgrind is obsessed with teaching just facts and that people must not use their imagination. He has a school run by Mr M’Choakumchild. Mr. Gradgrind, whose voice is ‘dictatorial’, opens the novel by stating ‘Now, what I want is facts’ at his school in Coketown. He is a man of ‘facts and calculations. ‘ He wants his pupils to come out of school correct, having vast knowledge of facts and to turn into a “Hand”, or a worker. His education is based clearly around facts, no imagination or wondering, just facts:
‘Now, what I want is facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. ‘ He believes that anything but facts will not be of any use to children and should be removed from their brains, like deleting a file off a computer. “Now, what I want is facts” His education is delivered in a narrow limited manor. It is taught by dictation: ‘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. ‘ This shows how Mr.
Gradgrind bluntly talks at the children. The only interaction between him and the class is a fired question and a limited answer. Another method of his teaching is humiliation; this is demonstrated by the passage, “Girl number twenty”… “Who is that girl? ” “Sissy Jupe, sir. ” replied Sissy. He then goes on to tell Sissy that she must be called Cecilia, ‘”Sissy is not a name,” said Mr Gradgrind “don’t call your self Cecilia” “It’s farther as calls me Sissy, sir” “Then he has no buisiness to do it,”‘ Under Mr Gradgrind’s education, Louisa seems to have lost her way.
She still craves for creativity but is starved of it therefore she craves it even more. However, she is not totally defeated, she shows signs of defiance, and she will not give up, ‘Struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life within its self somehow which brightened its expression’ This shows that although Louisa’s imagination has been starved she still looks for fulfillment. Louisa is bored with life because of the dull facts that are constantly hammered into her head.
‘All it made me think, after all, how short my life would be, and how little I could hope to do in it. ‘ She feels like she is locked in the arms of her life, caged in. In the chapter “Never Wonder” she is told, ‘Louisa, never wonder! ‘ Louisa feels suppressed as she is told she cannot imagine, ‘”I have such unmanagable thoughts” returned his sister, “they will wonder. “‘ When Sissy Jupe comes to live with Louisa and Tom, Louisa was fascinated to know about Sissy’s fuller life and asks her question after question of every kind as her imagination is starved,
“Tell me more about him” ‘”Why was he angry at the dog” Louisa demanded’ “Finish by telling me how you’re father left you, Sissy. Now that I have asked you so much, tell me the end,” Thomas and Louisa feel like they are united in isolation, they discuss their troubles with each other and stand by each other. Thomas, however, appears more beaten down and negative. When Mr. Gradgrind found both of his children watching a circus, Thomas gave in more easily. “Thomas did not look at him but gave himself up to be taken home like a machine,”
This showed Thomas feeling hopeless with the situation. There was no questioning of his fathers’ power. Thomas has become resentful and angry because his imaginative needs have not been met, “I wish I could collect all the facts we hear about, put a thousand barrels of gunpowder under them, and blow them up alogether” This passage shows Thomas’ frustration but it also shows a glimmer of hope as Thomas uses his imagination in describing building the bonfire to burn the facts.