Towards to end of the second chapter the reader is able to understand more about Dickens’ views on education. This is primarily through Sissy Jupe. She is clearly a very free willed child, who feels able to speak her mind and will not be easily suppressed. She claims that because she is ‘very fond of flowers’, she would carpet her room with pictures of them. M’Choakumchild is stunned by this response and tells Sissy that she must not be fond of anything and that she is ‘never to fancy’. By emphasising how strongly these two teachers are against the use of imagination, Dickens is once again, able to show that he doesn’t agree with this.
It is possible to assume that the reason Gradgrind and M’Choakumchild dislike flowers so much is because they are part of nature, which is one of the few things that man cannot control. Bitzer is a ‘light-eyed and light-haired’ boy, who ‘[looks] as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white’. His skin is ‘unwholesomely deficient’ and is therefore clearly lacking something. The graphic description of Bitzer is very relevant to Dickens’s views on education. When considering that Bitzer is Gradgrind’s ideal student it is possible to assume that he is lacking individuality and imagination.
Bitzer’s abnormal characteristics emphasise the effect Gradgrind’s educational system has on his pupils. By understanding about Bitzer the reader understands more about Gradgrind’s teaching the strange effect it has on children. In this section Dickens uses Bitzer and Sissy, who no only differ in appearance but also in educational views, to show how ridiculous he find Gradgrind and his teaching methods. In Gradgrind’s classroom all his pupils are passive ‘vessels’ who only answer to please him. Dickens very subtly puts his point of view across in the way that he writes his novel because he is cleverly controlling the reader’s views.
He intentionally makes the reader sympathise with Sissy Jupe and in this way indicates that he disagrees with Gradgrind and everything he stands for. Throughout the beginning to the novel, Dickens doesn’t actually present his personal views on education, but they become quite clear through his constant insulting and mockery of Gradgrind and his educational views. M’Choakumchild, who is another schoolmaster, is described to be a ‘pugilist’. From this simple statement it becomes clear that Dickens views this man to be forceful, destructive and abusive. It can be seen as amusing that Dickens has chosen to compare a schoolteacher to a boxer.
This is a great indication that in the eyes of Dickens, M’Choakumchild has no qualities to make him excel in teaching young children. His name implies that his intentions are to choke the children of their individuality and their imagination. He stifles their true selves and doesn’t allow them to have any individual opinions and ‘fancies’. This bizarre teaching methods used by both Gradgrind and M’Choakumchild indicates how such an unnatural educational system is forced on the children. It also highlights Dickens’ use of satire in order to portray his own feelings on education.