A Christmas Carol is a famous novel written by Charles Dickens, the most popular writer of the Victorian Era. The novel is based on a fictitious character named Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a grumpy, mean spirited money lender described by Dickens as ‘a tight fisted hand at the grindstone’. The story is set in the mid nineteenth century, and provides a detailed interpretation of life during these times. In this essay I will discuss how Dickens uses different language and writing techniques to provide the reader with a clear image of the nineteenth century.
I will also compare the story to modern day life and explain in detail the relevance it has in today’s society. Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 and was the second of eight children. They moved to London in 1822 where he educated himself. He took on basic jobs, eventually becoming a legal clerk in 1827. His ambitions grew when his father showed him a house, which inspired him to do well in life. He had always loved writing, so in 1831 he obtained a job as a journalist and wrote a book of stories called Pickwick Papers.Order now
Because Dickens was alive during the Victorian Era, he had a very good idea of what life was like, and used this to create a detailed description for the reader. In Stave Three, he describes the scene on Christmas morning, “scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snowstorms”.
Dickens would probably have seen this sort of thing happening outside his window and described it in great detail to the reader. One of the most significant characters in the novel is Bob Cratchit, who is Scrooge’s clerk. Dickens uses the relationship between them to emphasise what work conditions were like in the 1800’s, what Scrooge’s attitude to life was and how he treated Bob Cratchit very poorly, giving him very little pay to support his family and Tiny Tim. The Cratchit’s’ traditional family dinner is used by Dickens to portray what the moral of Christmas should be.
The ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to the dinner as well and Dickens uses this to compare Scrooge’s attitude to the poor and the true moral of Christmas, which is to be satisfied with limited resources and be generous in spirit. This is exactly what the Cratchit’s do and Dickens presents them as an ordinary family, who only have a small goose to feed eight people. The family are all high in spirits, playing jokes and sharing the day’s events with each other, all while Scrooge is stood in the background with the spirit.
The spirit is trying to teach Scrooge a lesson, by quoting what Scrooge said about the workhouses: “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population”. This is one of the main parts of the story where the spirit is telling Scrooge to change his ways, and teaching him how to do that. It made Scrooge realise that he had been a selfish man and seeing the large Cratchit family struggling to feed everyone made him want to improve Bob Cratchits’ work pay.
When the charity men come to visit Scrooge at his workplace, they are pleasant, happy businessmen, and this contrasts well with Scrooge’s attitude of being a ‘covetous old sinner’. The men try to persuade Scrooge into helping the poor by explaining that many thousands of poor people are in need of ‘common necessaries’. Scrooge bluntly replies ‘Are there no prisons? ’ indicating that he considers poverty to be a crime. Next, Scrooge asks, ‘and the Union workhouses?
’ This shows that Scrooge thinks that everyone poor belongs in the workhouses. When the men ask for a donation, Scrooge instantly shouts ‘Nothing! ’ emphasising that he has no interest in donating any money. Dickens’ uses the charity men to get his personal view of poverty across to the reader and also to show that not all Victorians were selfish. However, Scrooge act as if he is careless, annoyed and doesn’t want to give to charity. Scrooge also believes that people should be punished for poverty.
On Christmas night, the ghost presented Scrooge with a visual allegory of two children, a girl and a boy, who were from deep poverty and described by Dickens as ‘Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling and wolfish’. The spirit explains that the children are not his, but Man’s and that the boy is Ignorance and the girl is Want. The spirit says that ‘Doom’ is on the boys’ forehead, unless the writing be erased, meaning that the end of society is near unless poverty is changed or erased. Dickens uses the children to explain how poverty is affecting the world and society and that there is still time to change things.
The children send an emotional message to both the reader and Scrooge and this has a bigger impact than using adults who are poor. This can be compared to today in the fact that although social and living conditions have improved dramatically in the last century, but there is still a wide range between rich and poor and it is continuing to increase. Although poverty is shown throughout Christmas Carol, it is emphasised when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is walking with Scrooge into an ‘obscure part of town, where Scrooge had never penetrated before’.
Dickens uses long adjective lists to describe the unknown area in great detail with strong adjectives: ‘The ways were foul and narrow, the shops and houses wretched, the people half-naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offenses of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery. The use of powerful descriptions about the unknown place gives the reader a clear, detailed image of the scene and makes the reader think about how much has changed since Victorian times.