From Gradgrind to Brodie: Two Philosophies, One World!

Sayed Mohammed Youssef


Despite the big considerable differences between Charles Dickens’ classic and most pedagogical novel Hard Times (1854) and Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), they have much in common as both feature an unorthodox theory of teaching, which turns out to be thoroughly detrimental to their students’ independent, creative thinking. In their most extreme form, the teaching philosophies of their protagonists, Mr Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times and the eponymous character of Miss Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, though much different, lead up to one single result: they do obliterate students’ free thinking and critical capacities. It is simply a system that does reduce students to “little vessels…arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts [or whatever] poured into them until they were full to the brim” (Dickens, 1994, p.2). This article is an explicitly comparative reading of Dickens’ and Spark’s responses to educational philosophies. Whereas Miss Brodie is a nonconformist who goes against the conventional educational methods, Mr Gradgrind relentlessly espouses the traditional education system verbatim by exalting reason and underestimating imagination.



Education; Imagination; Intellect; Nonconformity; Utilitarianism

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