I chose to do my analysis on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has become a holiday classic. I have seen A Christmas Carol in many forms, most notably Muppets and Disney, but this is the first time I had read the novella. I was surprised and delighted to find that this classic redemption story contains many puns and plays on words while grinding deep the harsh reality of poverty and social isolation.
The humor starts right at the beginning with a one person debate by the narrator on the simile “dead as a doornail”, an anecdote drawing humor and attention from the heavy statement of “Marley was dead: to begin with.” This sort of interjection from the narrator continues throughout the story, adding levity to what may otherwise be a haunting tale. In fact, these anecdotes stop upon the entrance of the third spirit, allowing for a more serious and haunting experience. At first, the absence is hardly noticed with the flow of the story and only upon reflection did it become apparent.
Ultimately I truly enjoyed reading through the familiar story for the first time. A Christmas Carol will remain an important part of my holiday tradition for its morals and entertainment. B1. Historical context Charles Dickens is known for portraying life in the 19th century London from the perspective of the well off and the poor. The 19th century was a time of growth and development, the population grew from 1 million to 6.2 million from 1800-1900(2).
This influx of people allowed growth in factories and shipping yards, furthering the wealth and creating a larger gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. The extreme population density that resulted from this led to an infant mortality rate of 20% and estimated life expectancy of an East End laborer was only 19 years(3). The constant coal burning and factory waste led to a prevalent “fog” were constantly affecting the air worsening lung issues(3).
The plight of the impoverished was a morbid fascination for London’s upper and middle class and Charles Dickens became popular for his accurate and in-depth portrayal of poverty(4). The Victorian Era also led to more popularity in celebrating the Christmas Season(5). This establishes sources for the two major themes surrounding the novella. B2. Biography All expressions of art are a representation of the artist themselves and trials in life can become sources of inspiration.
Charles Dickens was born to a middle-class family which fell into debt. At 12, Charles Dickens father was placed into debtors’ prison, and he was forced to sell his book collection, leave school, and work in a factory. This circumstance created a deep personal and social outrage, affecting his outlook(6). This can clearly lead to his empathy for the impoverished and his promotion of charity in his works.
Making Ebenezer, a money lender, able to see the struggle of his fellow man and turn is “humbug” spirit to generosity and charity. On a side note, I find it amusing he named Ebenezer’s sister after his own, Fanny. Unfortunately, I was unable to find resources regarding his relationship to his sister but I can only assume, based off his writing, that he was fond of her, considering the bright loving relationship that was portrayed between Ebenezer and Fanny, that is prior to growing distant.
Analysis of themes Charles Dickens’ writing was mainly focused in realism and A Christmas Carol continues with this theme. Realism is simply focusing the work to be based on objective reality(7). Although the spirits and time travel have no true place in reality, the environment that these fantasies exist in, is definitely rooted in realism. A Christmas Carol clearly portrays the struggles of the lower class and is brutally honest on the consequences of social isolation and “hum-bug”ery.
Charles Dickens portrays realism by demonstrating the differences between classes. Ebenezer portrays the upper class and its cold nature and rationalizations to ignore and blame the poor for their own plight. Then he further describes how the classes react to the death of Ebenezer, leading to the highlight of the most desperate of the lower class, explaining how one woman stole the bed dressing and clothes off of Ebenezer’s corpse.
These harsh glimpses at the characters and their interaction show what is the core of realism. B4. Relevance to Today There are a few archetypes that seem to remain ever-present in storytelling and pop-culture. The Christmas Carol remains a classic holiday staple and is frequently retold by modern entertainment with a mild spin. It has remained relevant to western society and the Christmas season since its creation. Its morals remains an important reminder, be kind to each other, and think of those less fortunate. For those who celebrate Christmas, this carol will always maintain some relevance, but the story and moral can continue beyond Christmas to all people. C. Reflection Once again, I very much enjoyed reading A Christmas Carol and I enjoyed making connections and learning more about the author and historical context.
Learning about Charles Dickens’ brush with debt and poverty coming from the middle class, made a clear connection to see how he could relate and empathize with the lower classes and move further to promote their welfare. I had previously read Great Expectations in high school and now feel I may not have given it the thought and attention the book truly needed. This review and evaluation have inspired me to review more books by Charles Dickens, fortifying my respect for this author. Thank you for the delightful opportunity to enjoy this novella and learn more about its setting and context. “God Bless Us, Every One!”