A Christmas Carol is a novel written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) during the Victorian age, an era that took its name from Queen Victoria, England titular ruler from 1819-1901. Under Queen Victoria’s rule, London reigned the worlds dominate city country and the country’s incomparable center of commerce, culture and government. At this time London’s industrial age contributed to a large share of the manpower and capital that brought the country to a position of world economic dominance. However there was a downside to the industrial age, industrialization had altered the physical, social and cultural landscapes of Great Britain.
The rise of the factory system had drawn rural peasants to the great urban centers in numbers, incomparable in history, creating dangerous conditions of overcrowding and feeding, developing modern problems of social displacement, crime and poverty. Within London the River Thames was filled with sewage and industrial waste. The air was contaminated with soot and pollution which emptied from residential and industrial chimneys. Until the second half of the 19th century London residents were still drinking water from the very same portions of the Thames that the open sewers were discharging into.
Inside the factories, the place of economic production, self-interested owners paid poverty level wages for fourteen hour days and employed young children in dangerous, even lethal, work environments. Child labor became a very big problem. Children of all ages worked in factories (mills), mines, picking fruit and preparing sea-food. The children not only suffered because of lack of education, they also suffered from injuries caused by the machines. They usually had to work with machines that only adults have the strength for, and know how to use.
Some children were deformed or crippled because of working with the machines. The children had no other choice, if their parents were poor; they needed to help bring money into the family. The orphans had no family but they needed the money for themselves. The Poor Law made in 1834 was the Victorian answer to dealing with the poor. The Poor Law created regional workhouses where aid could be applied for. The workhouses were little more than a prison for the poor. Freedom was denied, families were separated and human dignity was destroyed. The true poor often went to great lengths to avoid this relief.
Charles Dickens applied his unique power of observation to the city, in which are expressed in his novels. His description of 19th century London, allow readers to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the old city. The story I am studying is A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is a song sung during a Christian celebration – Christmas. A Christmas Carol is structured using 5 stares (chapters). It begins in the past, informing the reader of a man named Marley, and his death. Then in the present we are introduced to Ebenezer Scrooge who is a business man.
Unfortunately that is all he cares about. He thinks Christmas is a humbug and that if the poor don’t want to go to prison or to the workhouses, they had better die and decrease the surplus population. On this Christmas Eve, Scrooge was visited by his very cheerful nephew who greeted him with a jolly; ‘Merry Christmas, uncle. ‘ However Scrooge replied bitterly not even cracking a smile. The theme explored in this chapter is greed. This is shown when two charity workers enter after Scrooge’s nephew leaves and asked whether Scrooge will donate any money to feed the poor.
He replies; ‘I can’t afford to make idle people merry. ‘ Scrooge leaves for his home after asking if his clerk wanted the day off. Scrooge approached his door and proceeded to open it but was stopped as the knocker on it changed to Marley’s face. Startled as he was he reached for the key and walked straight in. He sees Marley’s face again on the tiles. These frequent sightings build the tension until Scrooge finally sees Marley’s ghost in whole. In the second chapter Scrooge woke confused with the time but remembered what Marley’s ghost said. As the clock struck one, the first ghost appears.
It is the ghost of Christmas past and takes Scrooge on a journey through time. They begin with the boarding school that Scrooge had been sent to as a child, and had been left for many of the Christmas holidays. After seeing himself as a boy left all alone. Scrooge felt remorseful for not giving the carol singer anything. Next, they went to Mr. Fezziwigs’. Scrooge had apprenticed there, he saw the party that Mr. Fezziwig always threw on Christmas, spreading cheer and happiness. The ghost highlighted that Mr. Fezziwig didn’t have to spend a lot to make all these people happy.
However he was corrected by Scrooge who says, ‘he has the power to render us happy or unhappy… his power lies in words and looks… the happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune’ speaking consciously like his former self. As the scene changes we see the Christmas that Ebenezer broke of his engagement with Belle because she was poor and he had just gotten a job with Jacob Marley. Scrooge is upset and wishes to see no more of the past however is shown one more shadow. It was the shadow of Belle as a mother with children. He is again remorseful for being very rude and rejecting her.
Scrooge struggles with the ghost to be taken back and finally falls onto his bed unconscious. In the third chapter Scrooge awoke however prepared for what ever may face him next. But when the hour arrived nothing appeared until a booming voice called him into the next room. The room in which sat the giant was decorated with berries and delicious food. The giant revealed himself to be the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge, still shaken from his encounter the night before with the Ghost of Christmas Past, goes with the giant without objection. They appeared on the street on Christmas morning.
The ghost takes Scrooge all over the city showing him how all the people of London celebrate this holiday. Then he takes him to the house of his employee Bob Cratchit. There Scrooge sees that even his sole employee whom he only pays fifteen shillings a week, has a large family, and a crippled son named Tiny Tim, is still full of cheer and takes immense joy in being with his family on this special day. They stop again at the house of Scrooge’s nephew Fred. There is a party going on with food, fun and games. Scrooge heard Fred talking of how much he pitied his uncle’s attitude of Christmas but loved him any way.
Scrooge, quite bewildered by what he had seen, was conducted home by the Ghost. The moral throughout this chapter is no matter if you’re rich or poor joy and happiness can be spread on such an occasion. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was shrouded in a long black robe which hid its face and spoke not a word. It merely pointed the way and Scrooge followed. First they went down the street stopping to listen to knots of conversation about a dead man, all with little or no emotion. Next they visited a pawn shop where two women were selling things taken from a dead mans house before the body was even cold.
Then to Bob Cratchits house where Scrooge learns that Tiny Tim had died and the family is heart broken. Scrooge asked the Ghost if there might be a way to prevent his death. The ghost said nothing and led Scrooge away from the room. Scrooge asked if he might see himself in this future. The Ghost led him to a graveyard and pointed to a headstone. Scrooge looked at it and was shocked to find his own name engraved upon it. He fell to his knees by the spirit, proclaiming himself to be a changed man and that he would keep the Christmas spirit in his heart and forever heed the lessons of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
The spirit vanished. In the last chapter ‘The End Of It’ Scrooge awoke overjoyed by the fact that he did awake. He ran to the window and asked a passing boy what day it was. Christmas day he was told. He hadn’t missed it and was so happy he employed the boy to go to the poultry shop and buy the biggest turkey in the store and had it sent to Bob Cratchit’s house. Scrooge went to his nephew’s house and Fred welcomed him in joyfully and a wonderful time was had by all. The next day Scrooge got to work early.
He caught Bob Cratchit coming in late and just as Bob thought he was going to get fired, Scrooge raised his salary and promised to help Cratchit and his struggling family. From that day on, Scrooge was a changed man. It was said that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. In the first stave Scrooge is introduced to the reader a very greedy, isolated old sinner. This is indicated when he is described by the author ‘He was a covetous old sinner… and self contained, and solitary as an oyster’. This explains his reaction and behavior towards other people including his own family and employees.