The government officer is there to back Gradgrind up in that fact should only be taught. He uses what decoration to have on wallpaper as an example, he explained to the class why you mustn’t have horses on wallpaper, ‘I’ll explain to you, then…why you wouldn’t paper a room with representations of horses. Do you ever see horses walking up or down the sides of rooms in reality-in fact?’ He then goes on to talk about what you would have on your carpet; he questions Sissy about this and, as did Gradgrind, embarrasses her.
After this he sounds very smug with himself, ‘… smiling in the calm strength of knowledge.’ The class is later told that ‘you must discard the word Fancy altogether.’ This clearly tells the reader that the government officer agrees with Gradgrind and is a standard way of teaching. ‘This is a new discovery. This is fact. This is taste.’ The government officer’s philosophy is that he believes facts are a way of life and are tasteful. I think Dickens included the government officer in the first two chapters as he thought they had too much to do with education and it was becoming very political.
M’choakumchild, the schoolmaster, is a product of the industrialisation of education, he is a teacher who follows the same beliefs as Gradgrind and the government officer, he too believes in facts. Dickens tells us that M’Choakumchild has a lot of factual knowledge but ‘If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!’ I think that Dickens is again expressing that he believes imagination is a must as M’Choakumchild has a lot of knowledge but his students will never be complete people as they will only ever see one side of life.
The school itself is described as a factory, ‘He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory…’ This is what really built the image of the school up for me. It sounds as though the whole education system was made to run like a factory. The pupils are the machines and the teaches are the workers, like men and women who operate machinery are only useful to their masters for this, M’Choakumchild is only useful to Gradgrind because he is so full of facts.
Dickens believed that children should have an imagination, he was a romanticist. He wrote Hard Times at a time were everyone believed in empiricism, it was very different from other novels that were wrote at the time. Dickens has used characters to represent empiricism, for example Tomas Gradgrind, as he has with characters representing romanticism, for example Sissy Jupe. Dickens dedicated Hard Times to a philosopher friend of his, Tomas Carlyle, who felt very strongly that society was threatened by industrialism.
In 1892 he made the following statement, “It is the age of machinery in every outward and inward sense of that word. Nothing is now done directly by hand; all is by rule and calculated contrivance … Men are grown mechanical in heard and in heart, as well as in hand.” Throughout Hard Times Dickens refers to the workers as ‘Hands’, men and women who are only important to their masters because they can manage machines. We can see that Hard Times reflects the issues in Carlyle’s statement, the themes of industrialism and everything following fact.