Places Discussed

*Rugby School

*Rugby School. One of the great English public schools, founded in 1567. In writing this novel, Thomas Hughes described the world of Rugby School as he knew it when he was a student there in the 1830’s. Tom’s first sight of the school is of the playing field and a long line of stone buildings, with the chapel at one end and the schoolhouse, containing the headmaster’s residence, at the other. Much of the action occurs on the close, or playing field, a large, open space divided into two areas. Between a gravel walk bordering the building and a line of elm trees, the younger boys play their cricket matches, and on the other side of the trees the older boys play theirs. There are goals at the ends of these fields, which are kept in good repair by the school’s servants, as are the grassy fields themselves, which are regularly wetted down and smoothed with rollers. At one side is a fives’ court for handball players. From his first day, when he throws himself into a cricket match, until his last day, nine years later, when he plays as the respected captain of the school’s best team, many of Tom’s successes and failures take place on the close.

Schoolhouse hall

Schoolhouse hall. Large chamber, thirty feet long and eighteen feet high that is the setting for many of the indoor events in the story. Along one side are two large fireplaces whose blazing fires provide the heat and much of the light. There are two long tables where the boys eat, one in the middle of the room and the other...

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The novel takes place in the 1820s and 1830s in England. The opening chapters describe Tom Brown's early childhood in the rural county of...

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Literary Qualities

Except for his occasional use of authorial intrusions in order to ensure that readers grasp the moral point of certain episodes, Hughes...

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Social Sensitivity

Tom Brown's School Days is a novel about upper-class boys developing into upper-class men. Women exist only on the periphery of the...

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Topics for Discussion

1. What social value does Hughes see in the village feast days? Has the importance of these days changed at all over the years?


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Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Tom Brown's Schooldays draws frequently on an academic, schoolboy, and sports vocabulary that may be un- familiar to modern...

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Related Titles / Adaptations

The bulk of Hughes's writing addressed economic and political issues, but in 1861 he wrote a sequel to Tom Brown's Schooldays called...

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For Further Reference

Cordery, Gareth. "Tom Brown's Schooldays and Foreskin's Lament The Alpha and Omega of Rugby Football." Journal of Popular Culture 19...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Briggs, Asa. Victorian People. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. The author, an eminent British historian, discusses the notable figures, ideas, and events of the high Victorian era (1851-1867). Included is a brilliant chapter on “Thomas Hughes and the Public Schools.”

Chandos, John. Boys Together. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984. In this scholarly analysis of the English public school from 1800 to 1864, Dr. Thomas Arnold plays the central role. The importance of Hughes’s Tom Brown’s School Days as popularizing Arnold’s reforms at Rugby is discussed.

Mack, Edward C., and W....

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