Wollstonecraft and Dickens: Fight For Educational Reform Although they wanted it in different ways, Mary Wollstonecraft and Charles Dickens both argued for educational reform. Unhappy with the current state of women, Mary Wollstonecraft, in her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, demanded equal access to equal education for women. Her main tactic was to persuade people that educating women would not only improve society as a whole but society would not advance until it happened. Unlike Wollstonecraft, Charles Dickens expressed a desire for a complete overhaul of the educational system in his book, Hard Times. Dickens believed that the current utilitarian based educational system lacked humanity (something greatly needed for a complete education); he showed this, not by outright stating it, but by giving an illustration of the system (both in the classroom and at home) and then showing the outcome of the methods used.
Women?s education as we know it today was non-existent. The education that women received was laughable, at the very least, when compared to the education of men. According to our textbook, the education of women consisted of ?basic literacy, embroidery, singing, playing a piano or harpsichord, dancing, sketching, [and] conversational French or Italian.? It is not hard to see that it just didn?t compare to the education of men. Women weren?t just uneducated; they weren?t respected by men or even themselves. They also had very little freedom. Everything they owned upon marriage was forfeited to their husbands. This is why some women opted to remain single, but their lives weren?t any better than those married. Wollstonecraft knew as well as anyone that she was born into a man?s world. She and her sister?s worked various jobs trying to earn a living, but it wasn?t until she educated herself, with something like a man?s education, that she gained freedom and self-respect. This is what she wanted most for her fellow females. She believed that women deserved equality with men. For this to happen she thought that women would have to be equal to men in their intelligence, and the only way for this to happen would be for them to be educated. Wollstonecraft knew that this was the problem and for there to be any start in improving women?s position they would have to be educated more like men. Wardle stated, in his book titled Mary Wollstonecraft: A Critical Biography, that, ?She was attacking the attitude which most men of the time showed toward her sex, and she traced it to the inadequate education of women.? He goes on further to give a quote from Mrs. Beard stating; ?The objects if her special aspersions were customs and opinions, not specific provisions of law affecting women, married and single.? That is why she offered ?no program of legislation guaranteed to bring about [women?s] ?emancipation.?
... and they are walking with men. Women Education in India In the Vedic Yuga, women had right to get education. But slowly-slowly, ... education – and, therefore, also all too often to a life of missed opportunities. Improving educational opportunities for girls and women ... it can be achieved. As a minimum: states must ensure that basic education is available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable for ...
Wollstonecraft believed that a good lasting marriage needed partnership between both the husband and the wife. In order to make the thought of women?s education more appealing to men she proposed that women be educated in order to make them better mother?s (because they could better teach their children) and wives if they married (because they would be better companions) and if they remained single to earn a respectable living. Women, if educated, could also be useful to their husbands after they had lost both their beauty and their function (raising children) because they could also be companions. To aid her argument even further, Wollstonecraft brilliantly brought together women and soldiers for comparison. Both women and solders received education that was both deficient and harmful. Because of this similarity in education, there were also similarities in characteristics (like concern with fine dress and other frivolities).
... woman directly above him, really gives the sculpture a strong sense of unity. In fact, the way the man ... may possibly see social dogmas portraying women as inferior to men, a view that was very common ... sculpture, nicely titled Centaur Abducting Lapith Woman and Fallen Lapith Man, is a wonderful symbol of the ... to defend his wife from the ominous half man, half horse. The centaur pulls up proudly on his ...
Both are taught total subordination (to obey without understanding why).
They both ?acquire manners before morals? and are sent out into the world prematurely. This comparison greatly helps her argument. The profession of women was to be mistresses so they, like soldiers, only fulfilled their function for a small period of time. This was such a great argument because it compares the most ?masculine? group of men with the most ?feminine? group of women. ?Where is the sexual difference, when the education has been the same?? Wollstonecraft states at the end of this argument. Most of all, Wollstonecraft makes clear that until woman and man are equally free and both fulfill their duties to family and state there cannot be true freedom. She stressed that access to equal and quality education was the key. This meant an education that allows a woman to educate her own children and be an equal partner with her husband. She also put forth the idea that this was not just a necessary thing but one that women deserved being rational creatures like men. Dickens?s main target of criticism in his novel, Hard Times, is Utilitarianism and the educational system influenced by it. Dickens begins his novel in a classroom. We don?t see an actual school lesson but instead a sort of sermon from Mr. Gradgrind, the very embodiment of Utilitarianism. He is not only strongly against, but tries to crush any sign of creativity, emotion, individuality, or anything else that is not pure fact. Our first glimpse into this is his referral to Sissy Jupe as ?girl number twenty.? He asks her name and, when she replies that it is Sissy, Mr. Gradgrind quickly states that she must call herself Cecilia not Sissy. He inquires as to Sissy?s father?s occupation and, upon hearing that her father is with the undesirable and disgraceful group of horse-riders, he immediately starts manipulating facts in order to turn her father into a sort of veterinarian and horse breeder (which are much more desirable professions).
... even in the slightest affected by the Gradgrind system of education. Sissy, daughter of a horse breaker, has managed to keep all her ... their father who was a teacher of facts and facts alone. This is proved when Louisa and Tom were caught by their father ... asked her to, again for his personal gain. Her father stated that the age difference did not matter that 'the Cal ...
His next course of action is to have Sissy define a horse. She is taken aback by this request. Bexause she is unable to comply, Bitzer comes to the rescue with a textbook definition of a horse.
?Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely, twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in the mouth.?
It is not hard to see that this definition is lacking something. In it we have no sense of a horse?s essence or behavior, which are part of what make a horse a horse, but it satisfies Mr. Gradgrind; he doesn?t care about essence because essence is not a hard fact. Next we see that Mr. Gradgrind is not one-of-a-kind, but instead one of many who think like this, by the introduction of the unnamed government man and his sermon on taste. Taste, as we can see from this, is also derived from fact. Horses do not gallop upon walls in real life nor do flowers grow upon carpet; therefore, they are not to be represented there. Norrie Epstein, in The Friendly Dickens, states that, ?utilitarianism professes function over feeling, facts over fancy?. Mr. McChoakumchild, who is brilliantly named (choak-um-child), is not seen in action but we get a good description of him. He is supposed to represent the ordinary teacher who had gone of to school and been stuffed with facts of all kinds but never asked to really think about them, only regurgitate the information. We see no signs of actual humanity in this man; he is the model teacher for Utilitarianism, and, in fact, we get the idea that if he weren?t as learned as he was that he may actually have some humanity. Next, we see Tom Gradgrind?s own children Louisa and young Tom. They are caught peeping at a circus and severely reprimanded for it. This is only the first of many illustrations of how these children?s lives have been without fairy tales, circuses, or anything else that would resemble a normal childhood activity, including idle wondering. After being scolded, Louisa and young Tom are sent up to their study to get back to their never-ending lessons of all the different ?ologies? and ?somethingological? facts. Louisa?s response to her mother?s command is our first clue that something is not right with this picture as well as Louisa.
... book, Dickens shows that whatever was sown in the first book, the consequences are now being seen. For example, Louisa Gradgrind Bounderby was ... sown with the seeds of Fact. She used facts to decide upon marrying Bounderby. ... childhood. The significance of the ending being in the circus is that is the complete opposite of everything that was ...
?As if, with my head in its present throbbing state, you couldn?t go look at the shells and minerals and things provided for you, instead of circuses!? Said Mrs. Gradgrind. ?You know as well as I do no young people have circus-masters, or keep circuses in cabinets, or attend lectures about circuses. What can you possibly want to know of circuses then? I am sure you have enough to do, if that?s what you want. With my head in its present state, I couldn?t remember the mere names of half the facts you have got to attend to.? ?That?s the reason!? pouted Louisa. This thought deepens as she stares into the fire that her brother cannot see anything in. Several times throughout the book Louisa states the different things that were missing in her childhood and her sadness that she was unable to experience them, but we and she both know that it is too late for realizations like these. Unlike her brother, Louisa seems to have retained some humanity out of the lessons; this is her love for her brother. Young Tom seems to also have love for her but it has been perverted into a way for him to get what he wants. And is this surprising? Not in the least. Love has no basis on fact. It is a subject of the heart not of the head and therefore not a subject entertained by a family such as the Gradgrind?s or Mr. Bounderby. The heart is only an organ that pumps blood throughout the body in order for us to live, not the house of feelings. This idea is more evident when Louisa marries Bounderby (even though she obviously detests even the sight of him).
Her heart tells her no, but she is powerless to her father?s facts and statistics, as well as, her brother?s need and want for her to be with him (so that he can use her for his own advantage).
I think it is not a great surprise that Louisa ends up bursting with all the held in emotion later in the novel.
Sissy, I feel, is a character worth mentioning when discussing education. She simply fails at every attempt to fit into the nice neat model of a student. It is too late for them to suck the humanity and vitality out of her; she is too old and well taught. Mr. Gradgrind cannot make sense of her. He is unable to dissect her and put her into his nice, clean, safe, comfortable little charts. He eventually pays little attention to her after she has completely failed at school, and he sort of pushes her off onto Mrs. Gradgrind.
... daughter Louisa watching the circus performers. Straight away he went over to them and told them to get home immediately. Mr Gradgrind walked ... have a split meaning. Like she kept on calling Louisa young Miss Gradgrind instead of Mrs Bounderby. Mrs sparsit was sitting in ... In Hard Times there is a teacher called Mr Gradgrind, Mr Gradgrind set up a school As a charity. Although this makes ...
Although Dickens doesn?t come right out and say that the school systems were bad and the utilitarian way was no good, he lets us know by the way he explains things; for example, the whole description of Mr. McChoakumchild is satirical. Dickens also pushes us toward his view with the way things turn out. Louisa almost has a mental breakdown, young Tom is a thief, and Bitzer, the pride and joy of Mr. Gradgrind?s model school, is completely void of human sympathy and compassion. Sissy is the only one who isn?t undone or seen unfavorably; she was never a model student. She actually helps some of the characters see the wrongs of their ways. Epstein writes, ?The tender ministrations of Cissy, the circus child, have given Mrs. Gradgrind a novel idea that she struggles to express before dying: ?But there is something?not an Ology at all?that your father has missed, or forgotten, Louisa. I don?t know what it is?I shall never get its name now.?? Epstein also writes, ?she dies without ever having lived.? Sadly, this is the case for several of the characters in this novel.
These authors were very cunning about their arguments. Wollstonecraft made her ideas more appealing by saying that women?s education would improve society as a whole and allow it to evolve. Dickens never really came out and said that the educational system was bad. This left the final decision up to the reader whether or not things turned out all right even though it would be very difficult to come up with any other answer given the situation as it was. This gives the reader a feeling that he/she is not actually being pushed into believing anything and makes the persuasion more effective. Whether or not these two authors? works contributed to the actual change of the educational systems is mainly left to speculation. I personally feel that they, in combination with other great authors like them, helped persuade people that there was a problem to be fixed, which is the first step in reform. Even though Wollstonecraft only asked for women to be educated to an elementary level, I think she and Dickens both would be happy with the progress that has been made and the school systems today. Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Dickens. New York, New York: Penguin, 1998. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times: For These Times. 1854. New York: Penguin, 1997. Simpson, Margaret. The Companion To Hard Times. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997. Wardle, Ralph M. Mary Wollstonecraft A Critical Biography. Lawrence: Kansas UP, 1951. Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Vol. 2. Ed. David Damrosch. New York: Longman, 1999. 208-235.
... of that time who had impact the changes in women's rights and were influenced by Wollstonecraft. 6. References Wollstonecraft, M. 1792 ... devoted an essay to the roles and rights of women, comparing Wollstonecraft with an American critic and activist; Margaret Fuller. ... for creating such movement for women's right was Mary Wollstonecraft. Her words: “If women be educated for dependence; that ...
Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Dickens. New York, New York: Penguin, 1998. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times: For These Times. 1854. New York: Penguin, 1997. Simpson, Margaret. The Companion To Hard Times. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997. Wardle, Ralph M. Mary Wollstonecraft A Critical Biography. Lawrence: Kansas UP, 1951. Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Vol. 2. Ed. David Damrosch. New York: Longman, 1999. 208-235.