Charles Dickens was a Victorian writer. He was born in Landport, Portsmouth, on February 7, 1812. When he was twelve his father, who was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, was imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea debtor’s prison. Dickens had to leave school at this early age to work in the Warren’s blacking factory, where he earned six shillings a week. His family’s position deteriorated and his personal resentment increased. Dickens found all of this humiliating and this is where he got his inspiration for much of his fiction from.
Dickens eventually left Warren’s blacking factory due to his father receiving a legacy from a relative, meaning he could pay off his debt and leave Marshalsea debtor’s prison. Dickens’ father, John Dickens, then sent Charles to Wellington House Academy, where he stayed for two years until 1827. He then went to Gray’s Inn where he worked as a clerk, studied shorthand and became a reporter of debates. He worked there until the age of fifteen. Working here may have helped Dickens write ‘A Christmas Carol’, because Dickens was a clerk, so this could have helped influence the character Bob Crachit.
Charles Dickens wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1843. It was mainly written to build awareness of the severe circumstances of the poor children. The novella speaks of Ebeneezer Scrooge as being a cold-hearted, tight-fisted, self-centred man being transformed into a warm-hearted, generous, jovial man, due to visits from the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, and from the three ghosts of Christmas. Dickens wrote his story in the form of a novella. It was traditional for many families, in Victorian England, to sit around the fire and tell stories on Christmas Day.
This is similar to how we, today, sit as a family and enjoy a Christmas film together. Dickens was able to write and publish ‘A Christmas Carol’ in time for it to be sold before Christmas, so that it could be read in this traditional context. By using fictional characters, he was not directly offending the parts of society he was writing about. Also, he didn’t go straight to the point he was making, Dickens started the book in a discursive, informal fashion to draw people in. Dickens structured this story in a way which also helps to highlight the problems in society, in an effective, engaging and non-threatening manner.
When you open this book and look at the contents, you notice that this novella is not written in chapters. Chapters have been replaced with ‘staves’. This is in relation to the term used in music, with a stave being something that notes are written on, and also it coincides with the title ‘A Christmas Carol. ‘ Stave One addresses the reader as if it is to them Dickens is recounting the story directly to. The informal approach used by Dickens makes the reader feel more comfortable, and at times, this causes him to digress.
To some readers this may seem like a bad thing to do, but by digressing, the reader needs to continue reading until the main theme of the story is returned to, and so it has the added bonus of increasing suspense. An example of Dickens digressing is “I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the smile; and my unhallowed hand shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.
You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail. ” Here, Dickens is going off the point slightly, from talking about Marley being dead- spoken of before this quote- to talking about ironmongery. As I said earlier, this will make the reader feel more comfortable, as if an old friend is chatting to them. However, when we reach Stave Three, the previous comforting tone is replaced by a more serious and sombre tone, due to the story becoming too vivid and tense to continue this technique.