Dickens’ works

Dickens was one of the most prolific authors of the 19th century. His works, including some of the best-loved novels in the English language (Oliver Twist1837-39, Nicholas Nickleby 1838-39, David Copperfield 1849- 1 8501), were published in serial form in magazines, and his public reading tours of Britain and the US earned him huge popularity. His novels are populated by memorable, often comic, characters from all social classes, and many of his works criticize the social inequality of Victorian England.

The plot

In the novel of the same name, 18-year-old Nicholas Nickleby’s father has died, and Nicholas, his sister, and his mother are dependent on the dead man’s brother. Nicholas’ uncle has secured him a job at Dotheboys Hall, a school for poor boys in Yorkshire, run by Mr. Squeers.

1. Read the text and tell your opinion about the level of Mr. Squeers literacy.


He could not but observe how silent and sad the boys all seemed to be. There was none of the noise and clamour of a schoolroom; none of its boisterous1 play, or hearty mirth2. The children sat crouching and shivering3 together, and seemed to lack the spirit to move about. …

After some half-hour’s delay, Mr Squeers reappeared, and the boys took their places and their books, of which latter commodity4 the average might be about one to eight learners. A few minutes having elapsed5, during which Mr Squeers looked very profound, as if he had a perfect apprehension of what was inside all the books, and could not say every word of their contents by heart if he only chose to take the trouble, that gentleman called up the first class. Obedient to this summons there ranged themselves in front of the schoolmaster’s desk, half-a-dozen scarecrows6, out7 at knees and elbows, one of whom placed a torn and filthy8 book beneath his learned eye.

“This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy, Nickleby,” said Squeers, beckoning9 Nicholas to stand beside him.

“We’ll get up a Latin one, and hand that over to you. Now, then, where’s the first boy?”

“Please, sir, he’s cleaning the back-parlour window,” said the temporary head of the philosophical class.

“So he is, to be sure,” rejoined Squeers. “We go upon the practical mode of teaching, Nickleby; the regular education system. C-l-e-a-n, clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour10. W-i-n, win, d-e-r, winder11, a casement. When the boy knows this out of book, he goes and does it. It’s just the same principle as the use of the globes. Where’s the second boy?”

“Please, sir, he’s weeding12 the garden,” replied a small voice.

“To be sure,” said Squeers, by no means disconcerted. “So he is. B-o-t, bot, t-i-n, tin, bottin, n-e-y, ney, bottinney13”, noun substantive, a knowledge of plants. When he has learned that bottinney means a knowledge of plants, he goes and knows “em. That’s our system, Nickleby: what do you think of it?”

“It’s very useful one, at any rate”, answered Nicholas.

“I believe you,” rejoined Squeers, not remarking the emphasis of his usher14. “Third boy, what’s horse?” “A beast, sir,” replied the boy.

“So it is,” said Squeers. “Ain’t it, Nickleby?” “I believe there is no doubt of that, sir,” answered Nicholas.

“Of course there isn’t” said Squeers. “A horse is a quadruped, and quadruped’s Latin for beast, as everybody that’s gone through the grammar knows, or else where’s the use of having grammars at all?”

“Where, indeed!” said Nicholas abstractedly15.

“As you’re perfect in that,” resumed Squeers, turning to the boy, “go and look after MY horse, and rub him down well, or I’ll rub you down. The rest of the class go and draw water up16, till somebody tells you to leave off17, for it’s washing-day tomorrow, and they want the coppers18 filled.”

So saying, he dismissed the first class to their experiments in practical philosophy, and eyed Nicholas with a look, half cunning and half doubtful, as if he were not altogether certain what he might think of him by this time.

“That’s the way we do it, Nickleby,” he said, after a pause.

Nicholas shrugged his shoulders in a manner that was perceptible, and said he saw it was.

“And a very good way it is, too,” said Squeers. “Now, just take them fourteen little boys and hear them some reading, because, you know, you must begin to be useful. Idling about here won’t do.”

From Nicholas Nickleby, Chapter 8

1) I rough

2) sincere happiness

3) bent and shaking with cold

4) a reference to the books

5) passed

6) figures made by farmers to frighten birds

7) with holes in their clothes

8) very dirty

9) indicating to

10) clean vigorously

11) Squeers’ misspelling of window

12) pulling out the unwanted plants

13) Squeers’ misspelling of botany

14) assistant

15) with indifference

16) pull water up from a well

17) stop

18) large pans

2. Answer the questions according to the text.

1) How is the atmosphere in the classroom at Dotheboys Hall different from a normal classroom?

2) What do the boys there look like?

3) What does Squeers make the boys do when they have learned to spell a word?

4) What four tasks does Squeers make various boys do?

5) What details in the text show that: a. the school has no money? b. Squeers is uneducated?

6) What is Nicholas’ reaction to Squeers’ teaching methods? How does Dickens show this?

7) What serious message does Dickens intend to convey in this scene? Why, then, does he make in a humorous scene?

3. Prepare a report about how today’s classrooms and teaching methods are different from the classrooms and methods 100 years ago? What do you think makes a good and a bad teacher?

Матеріал до підручника Англійська мова 11 клас Нерсисян, Піроженко 2019

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