In this extract from the opening chapter of the novel, we learn several things. We get a strong impression of the sitting of London in the nineteenth century. We get an idea of the way. Some people worked and the conditions they had to work in. the character of scrooge is made clear with some interesting description, as well as the character of his nephew. This is an important passage in giving the reader lots of information to get the story moving. The story opens on Christmas Eve and the place is London. The weather was foggy, “Cold, bleak, biting.”
Scrooge’s place is called a “counting house” because scrooge is an accountant – a person who works out all the money that comes in or out of a business. Scrooge, “… Could hear the people in the court outside go wheezing up and down…” A court is a small courtyard or square with houses all around it in nineteenth century London the houses were all built very close together and there were many courts opening off the sheets. These were reached by alleyways and were often small, dark ad dirty.
Scrooge’s court is one of these, “The city clocks had only just gone three, but it war-quite dark already…” Because electric lighting, (or even gas lighting) had not bee invented, the only light in the offices comes from candles, but Dickens does not describe the candles as they give much clear light, “…like ruddy smears upon the palpable grown air,” Ruddy smears means reddish blots or stains which does not sound like bright, clear light. Palpable means something you can touch, so the air seems thick probably because of the dark court and the fog. Dickens describes the fog, as being like the smoke and steam from a large brewer, “observing everything.”
There are more details emphasise. The dreariness of the setting. It is dark at three, but “…It had not been light all day…” No doubt because “…the court was of the narrowest….” This makes it sound more like an alleyway with house each side. Even though the houses facing each other are close, “In the houses opposite were mere phantoms.” Because of the darkness of the court and the fog. You can hardly see them. On interesting detail is about “…city clocks.” Which have all struck three.
Obviously, everyone can hear all the clocks striking three. There must be many of them, perhaps church clocks, which would not be tried today. In addition, it must be quieter for people to hear all the clocks chiming – there were no cars and traffic noise [which noise of the traffic can prevent you hearing the chime of the clock.] The place where scrooge works – his counting house – seems to have two rooms with a door in between which scrooge leaves open to keep an eye on his clerk, “Who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters,” The working conditions are clearly poor. Scrooge has a little fire in his room, “Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.”
Nobody would heat offices with a coal fires these days, but if they did, they would be more generous than scrooge would. When the clerk comes in to get more coal, tells him that, “…it would be necessary for the to port.” Meaning that he will have to sack the clerk if he asks for more coal. Scrooge thinks it is too expensive to let the clerk heat his room that in any case is only a horrible little “tank” which sounds as if it has no windows and is like a prison “cell.” The clerk in the end to put on his scarf and tries to keep warm by getting close to his candle. Dickens says that the clerk would need a much stronger imagination to believe this would make him warm. Obviously, the accommodation and heating are below any decent standard.
Dickens was not just writing about scrooge’s counting house here – many people at this time worked in similar poor circumstance. He wrote this book in 1843 partly to make people aware of the terrible plight of the children of the poor, which had seen when he visited the field have ragged school for poor, hungry children. He had also been shocked by a report from the children’s employment commission. First he realised a story would be a better way to make people take notice of poverty and poor working conditions. The Cratchits give plenty of examples in this novel. In this extract, scrooge is described as being cold as cold weather.