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What is Thomas Gradgrind's basic attitude towards human experience?

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june7 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 31, 2007 at 2:50 AM via web

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What is Thomas Gradgrind's basic attitude towards human experience?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 31, 2007 at 3:38 AM (Answer #1)

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Gradgrind's attitude towards human experience, and towards life, can be seen in three details: his name, his insistence on facts, and his repeated discussions of himself.

The name indicates that life is hard: humanity can expect to be ground down.

His insistence on facts indicates that he thinks the world is a known place (rather than an adventure or source of mystery), that he knows it, and that externally verifiable data are superior to the soul, the spirit, imagination, etc. Again, this would make the human experience cold and fairly hard.

His repeated discussions of himself show that he expects human experience to be, well, self-centered. People will defer to power; it is better to have power than not.

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shauger | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 11, 2007 at 6:48 AM (Answer #2)

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Thomas Gradgrind (notice the name and the idea of grinding out graduates and knowledge) represents a philosophy towards education in Victorian England where things were to be taken literally.Tom Gradgrind is a utilitarian (everything has to be useful) 'Eminently practical' is Gradgrind's recurring description throughout the novel, and practicality is something he zealously aspires to. He represents the stringency of 'Fact', statistics and other materialistic pursuits. He considers artistic and literary attainments as being even destructive. Multiplication tables, scales, etc. again represent the idea of literal, measurable fact

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 11, 2007 at 11:57 AM (Answer #3)

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Regarding Gradgrind's attitude toward the human experience, this is shown by his relationship with his children and with his wife. When he catches his own children peeking through a hole to look at the circus, he cannot understand why they would do such a thing. His first concern is what others would think of his children. His method of teaching his students is the same as raising his children. He takes away the childhoods of both his students and his children, thus taking away their imaginations. He believes children should be raised from the earliest age to learn only the practical, useful facts about the world. He treats his wife the same way. She is the end product of what happens when you force a person to deal only in facts and never allow them to think about "what if" or "why". She's described as being so overloaded with facts that it has made her stupid. Gradgrind believes this is how a human should be taught to experience life.

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