A Christmas Carol


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(1843)

Illustrated by George Alfred Williams




"I have endeavoured, in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it."--Their faithful Friend and Servant, C. D. December 1843.



In this book of excitement the main character, Scrooge, who is a complete grouch (especially at Christmas) is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner who is there to warn him. The Ghost tells him that he will be visited by three more ghosts. And they take him on a journey through Christmas Past, Present, and Future to see the ups of Christmas and the downs of the way he is living to try to save him and many others from himself, and his huge Bah Humbug Attitude. This book is an eye opener and a sensation.--Submitted by N.L.H.

Dickens sets his novella in this the Christmas period to show the true meaning of sharing, giving and receiving. Through his representation of Scrooge, Dickens wants the reader to learn from his miserable personality and to encourage others to change their ways too. It seems that the reason why he wanted to do this was because the rich didn’t appreciate the poor; during the Industrial Revolution the gap widened between the rich and the poor – the poor being forgotten. This is why Scrooge then was visited by three different ghosts: the past, present and future. These ghosts highlight the need for Scrooge to change and value the poor and recognise their needs.--Submitted by Jessica Hennell



 


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Recent Forum Posts on A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol guided tour

It was someone's birthday last week, so we went into London. Apart from getting beered up, we went on a guided tour. It was sort of interesting. The tour was from Fenchurch Station through some alleys to the Bank of England. I know Dickens was a London based writer, but somehow, while I was reading this book, I did not identify Scrooge with any particular place. The guide showed us the churches that might have been alluded to in the story (some were very gothic), where Scrooge may have worked, the tavern he went to, and the sort of street he may have lived in. I was surprised what you could find by following those alleys. The bleakest part of the tour is where Scrooge might have been buried. The guide said that the only places that were not built on by 1843 were the sites of former churches that had burnt down during the Great Fire of London, and were subsequently used as burial grounds. This particular plot was enclosed on three sides by other buildings. It was dingy. By Dickens' time burial grounds were so overcrowded, it would not be long before your corpse and coffin would be hacked through to make room for someone else. A very gloomy, anoymous end. The other thing that surprised me is that the events of the book took part in the City of London, i.e. the Square Mile, the elite, financial area of London where most of the high-powered bankers, hedge fund managers, financial futures, insurance and derivatives executives work. My brother used to work about a quarter of a mile away when he was an accountant at one of those firms. I know Scrooge was an accountant of some sort, but I did not imagine him living and working there. I imagined him as some low level money grubber who might just as well have been based in Birmingham or Bristol or any British city.


Whose death is Scrooge more upset about: his or Tiny Tim's?

At the end of Stave 4, Scrooge is horrified to see his name on the grave stone. I thought he was slow on the uptake. He should have twigged much earlier that the recently deceased person shown him by the Ghost of Christmas Future, who nobody cared about, was himself. He was upset to learn that Tiny Tim would die, but seemed more upset to foresee his own death (well I suppose I would too). Scrooge resolves to be a better person, but how much credit does this do him? Does he decide to become more generous in order to extend Tiny Tim's life, extend his own life, or so that people care when he does die? Scrooge is getting on. Becoming kinder is not likely to extend his life by very much.


Head-scratching bit in stave three with Spirit of Christmas Present

I read a section where the Spirit of Christmas Present shows Scrooge some people bringing their dinners home from the bakers. Scrooge then says to the Spirit: "Spirit," said Scrooge, after a moment's thought, "I wonder you, of all beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people's opportunities of innocent enjoyment." "I!" cried the Spirit. "You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day?" said Scrooge. "And it comes to the same thing." "I seek!" exclaimed the Spirit. "Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family," said Scrooge. "There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us." What was all that about? I looked up the notes on the back and it said: Between 1832 and 1837 Sir Andrew Agnew (1793-1849) made repeated attempts to introduce a Sunday Observance Bill in the House of Commons. This bill would not only have closed the bakeries on Sundays but would have prohibited many of the people's recreations while leaving the wealthier classes unaffected. In June 1836, writing as 'Timothy Sparks', Dickens had attacked Agnew in a pamphlet called Sunday Under Three Heads. As it is; As Sabbath Bills would make it; As it might be made. In it he describes a working man emerging from a bakery on Sunday: with the reeking dish, in which a diminutive joint of mutton simmers above a vast heap of half-browned potatoes... the dinner is borne into the house amidst a shouting of small voices, and jumping of fat legs, which would fill Sir Andrew Agnew with astonishment; as well it might, seeing that Baronets, generally speaking, eat pretty comfortable dinners all week through, and cannot be expected to understand what people feel, who only have a meat dinner on one day out of every seven. It seems a bit weird that Scrooge, of all people, should begin criticising the Spirit of Christmas Present, a supernatural presence, over a law that a politician had been trying to introduce. Surely he was speaking to the wrong spirit anyway. He should have been speaking to the Spirit of Sunday. It seems odd that Dickens would interrupt his story to make his characters make a slightly clumsy political attack on a not particularly important politician. I am also interested whether many people did not have access to their own ovens. I gather people got the chance to use the bakers' ovens on Sundays because bakers were not allowed to bake or sell bread, but had to keep their ovens warm anyway (why would ovens have to be kept warm?) It was jolly decent-spirited of the bakers to let poor people use their ovens. If many people did not have ovens, did they eat any cooked food the rest of the week? Or did they mainly eat bread and butter like Pip and Joe from Great Expectations? I wonder what Dickens' views would be on matters such as Sunday trading, women bishops and gay clergy would be.


Bob Cratchit's wages

Bob Cratchit is paid fifteen shillings a week by his employer Scrooge. Obviously this is supposed to be a miserly sum, but I am surprised Mr Cratchit can support his family at all. Bob Cratchit has a wife, who presumably is not earning, and from what I can make out, five children: Martha, Belinda, Peter, a small boy, a small girl and Tiny Tim. Fifteen shillings a week works out at £39 a year. Dickens' father had the about the same size family (eight children but I think only five survived to adulthood) but earned twice that. Jane Eyre was paid £30 a year by Mr Rochester, but presumably she had food and lodgings paid for and only herself to keep. Jane's school-friend Helen Burns said the fees at Lowood School were £15 per year, but that was not enough to cover everything so they were topped up by charitable contributions. In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Angel gives Tess £50 to keep herself, for the year I think, but she gives £25 to her mother and finds she has to go back to work. This all makes Great Expectations' Pip's £500 a year very generous, although to be fair he secretly gives £250 to his friend Herbert to set him up in business. Inflation since the the 1800's is supposedly to have made things 80x as expensive, going by the price of gold (I think). This makes Bob Cratchit's annual salary £3120, which is ridiculous. Using what I think is a more realistic equivalent of 250x, Bob's annual salary comes to £9750. This still seems way too low to feed a family of seven plus rent and everything else. The introduction said the book was set in the hungry forties, during a time of economic depression. I gather nearly everyone was poorer anyway. There was just less of everything to go around. All the same, I wonder why Bob does not try and get a better job. Even unskilled labouring or work in a factory would pay as much, I'd have thought.


What is a counting house?

What does Mr Scrooge actually do for a living? He was in a partnership of a counting house. The only other place I have come across the term is in a nursery rhyme: "The King was in his counting house, counting all his money."


Is Tiny Tim Really Fred's (Scrooge's Nephew) Son

My Wife and I have been watching A Christmas Carol with Patrick Steward for years. Each year my wife picks up on a scene that is really out of place in the movie, & our only conclusion after watching the scene time after time is that Tiny Tim is really not Bob Cratchits's son. In the scene, they are sitting around the fireplace & Bob says that it was strange that he ran into Scrooges Nephew today. He says that his nephew gave him his card & says that he has a good wife & that if Tim needs anything to let him know. Crachit was a bit puzzled as to how Fred even knew of his wife & Tim. Earlier, Cratchit asks his wife "Where did you get such a fine goose (since he knew that he did not have the funds to buy it himself). The presumption here would be that Fred bought the Goose & gave it to Crachit's wife. Normally, I would not mention this on literary forum, but the Patrick Stewart version of a Christmas Carol is as good as it gets, & I want to pose this question to some sharp analytical minds. If you have not seen it, have a look & let me know what you think. Now that I watch this movie, this scene is a blaring reference to something going on with Crachit’s wife & Fred.


What can we learn from "A Christmas Carol"?

(Originally posted yesterday in the wrong forum, where it has been deleted and moved here.) It's just a "little" book, but it packs a wallop bigger than the most potent Christmas punch. Written in 1843, "A Christmas Carol," the novella (or long short story) is a perennial favorite, more ubiquitous than the other two members of the Yuletide triumvirate, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Handel's The Messiah. Stage adaptations of the Charles Dickens piece -- performed by a spectrum of actors from schoolchildren to professional touring companies -- dot the theatrical landscape from coast to coast. The jaded among us may wonder why this old roasted chestnut is still popular in the twentieth century. The current economic collapse aside, many Americans approach the holiday season with dread because it's "too commercial" (a comment, by the way, ironically made by the money-loving Scrooge himself in the 1984 George C. Scott CBS-tv version.) Having been scorned by our Pilgrim forefathers, Christmas wasn't even recognized as a national holiday until the mid-nineteenth century. Yet the national Ideal of what Christmas should be has descended down to us from Britain, where Queen Victoria celebrated Christmas with German-infected customs. Earlier in the century, Washington Irving's Bracebridge Hall, which described the holiday as celebrated in a English country house, made many of the former colonists nostalgic for a Yuletide with all the holly and ivy trimmings. A Christmas Carol embodies such a Victorian spirit. Dickens reportedly said that he had initially written the piece as a "pot-boiler," (i.e. for money), but that it was the only one of his works that made him laugh and cry. The near laughable cheapness Scrooge exhibits becomes downright meanness in his consummate dismissal of the plight of the Poor: "Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?" He disdains the celebration of Christmas as a "humbug," and rejecting such extends to his indifference toward Christianity: truly he loves money more than he loves his neighbor. Ebenezer Scrooge, whose surname has come down through the language as a synonym for a surly and flinty miser, is the ultimate comic-slash-tragic figure, a true protagonist because he changes: at the beginning of the story his character is one thing, and by the end has become the complete antithesis of what he formerly was. Another reason for the story's durability is its emphasis on family values, and I say this completely without irony. Bob Cratchit, the hardworking clerk, has a brood arguably too large to support on the meager salary which Scrooge pays him. But the abiding love the Cratchits hold for one another is the key to their survival. The youngest son, Tim, suffers from a terminal illness, and he needs a crutch to walk. Such sentimental pulling at the reader's heartstrings could facilely be deemed bathos; even Dickens himself was no stranger to crowd-pleasing emotionalism, Oscar Wilde's famous quotation about the death of Little Nell coming to mind. Yet consider the role which Tiny Tim's character plays in this story; he symbolizes not something else but Someone Else, the "reason for the season," so to speak. In the vision forced upon Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Tiny Tim dies, but in the final scenes showing Scrooge's no-less-than-miraculous conversion, becomes "resurrected" in a way. Indeed, only by being forced by The Ghost of Christmas Present to witness Tim's suffering as well as Bob's even deeper anguish does Scrooge begin to feel anything akin to compassion. Other scenes in the piece are rich in Christian allegory: the haggling over the "deceased" Scrooge's bed curtains parodies the casting of the money changers out of the temple, and Scrooge's harrowing soul-searching in the climactic graveyard scene seems like a personal Gethsemane for him. For Dickens's literary treatments of Christian imagery, only the self-sacrifice of Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities comes close to a superb treatment of Christian imagery. It's always darkest, it's said, before the dawn. Even in pre-Christian times, the Winter Solstice was a supernatural symbol. The sun has reached its lowest point in the sky, it is the shortest day of the year, yet, and yet-- little by little, the sun rises a bit higher, the day becomes gradually longer and longer. The darkness dies and the Light appears. There is no better analogy for the human spirit of hope, which is undeniably the "take home" message of "A Christmas Carol." Even the most hardest of hearts can soften, and it truly is never too late to transform despair into hope. Like Scrooge, people can change -- sometimes literally overnight.


No subject

I would just like to say that i think that Christmas Carol is a great book and story for all ages. I love all the symbolism Dickens uses. (e.g. - I love how Dickens describes how the the clock surrounded by the fog in the church is starring down at him the clock symbolizing the time he has left and the church symbolizing judgement of whether he ends up like Marley or is permitted into heaven.) Also I love the ghost of Christmas Present. One of my favorite lines is when Scrooge asks the spirit to spare Tiny Tim and he replies quoting Scrooge "If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population" (77) (Stave 3). Also the quote on page 77 about the insect is a great quote. Also if whoever was wondering what a stave was still doesnt know, it the way music or poetry is divided (into 5). (A Christmas Carol


Socio-cultural aspects

Hello everybody, Could someone try and tell me the socio-cultural aspects which are told in a Christmas Carol about Britain in that age? I am a student of history & English in Holland and I am trying to study Great Britain. All I still need to know exactly, is how the socio-cultural aspects are written down by Charles Dickens. Thanks to anyone who is able to help me! Myrthe


New Found Vintage Book

While going thru my in laws basement I came across a suede bound copy of A Christmas Carol. There is an inside note dated Christmas 1903. The title page just says " A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens Borse & Hopkins New York. It is 145 pages long with gold edges on the pages. There are not other dates in the book. I am wondering if this might be a 1st addition and my "find" of the century. If anyone has any info. or insight as to where & can get any more information on this great book I would greatly appreciate your help. Thank you, Colleen St. Pierre


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