In chapter 7 how does Dickens satirize public education?"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Throughout "Great Expectations" Charles Dickens comments on Victorian society, and in Chapter 7, Dickens ridicules the evening school of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt.  The students are charged twopence per week, but the great-aunt falls asleep instead of teaching.  No one tests the children on their lessons, either.  Pip states,

There was a fiction that Mr. Wopsle "examined" the scholars once a quarter.  What he did on those occasions was to turn up his cuffs, stick up his hair, and give us Mark Antony's oration over the body of Caesar.

In addition to the "educational institution" Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt keeps a small general shop in the same room where Biddy, the orphan, keeps a record of all that is sold.  It is Biddy, too, who teaches Pip to read, write, and do arithmetic.

In this chapter, therefore, Dickens satirizes the institution of education, which like other institutions such as the workhouse of "Oliver Twist," is not concerned with the care of the children therein, but, instead is occupied simply with the profit that comes from housing these children. If any care is given to the children, it is by the other children themselves, not by the adults who are supposedly in charge of the children's care.

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