Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol  in six weeks during October and November 1843, and the novella (technically, it is not counted among his novels) appeared just in time for Christmas, on 19 December. The book’s effect was immediate.

The Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle went straight out and bought himself a turkey after reading  A Christmas Carol, and the novelist Margaret Oliphant said that it ‘moved us all in those days as if it had been a new gospel’. Even Dickens’s rival, William Makepeace Thackeray, called the book ‘a national benefit’.

Both ‘Scrooge’ and ‘Bah! Humbug’ are known to people who have never read Dickens’s book, or even seen one of the countless film, TV, and theatre adaptations. But what is A Christmas Carol really about, and is there more to this tale of charity and goodwill than meets the eye? Before we offer an analysis of A Christmas Carol , it might be worth briefly summarising the plot of the novella.

The novella is divided into five chapters or ‘staves’. In the first stave, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge rejects his nephew Fred’s invitation to dine with him and his family for Christmas. He reluctantly allows his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to have Christmas Day off work. On Christmas night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.

Marley, bound in chains, warns Scrooge that a similar fate awaits him when he dies unless he mends his ways; he also tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits.

The second, third, and fourth staves of A Christmas Carol are devoted to each of the three spirits of Christmas. First, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits Scrooge and reminds him of his lonely childhood at boarding school, and the kindness shown to the young Scrooge by his first employer, Mr Fezziwig (whom we see at a Christmas ball).

Scrooge is also shown a vision recalling his relationship with Belle, a young woman who broke off their engagement because of the young Scrooge’s love of money. The Ghost of Christmas Past then shows Scrooge that Belle subsequently married another man and raised a family with him.

The third stave details the visit from the second spirit: the Ghost of Christmas Present. This spirit shows Scrooge his nephew Fred’s Christmas party as well as Christmas Day at the Cratchits. Bob Cratchit’s youngest son, Tiny Tim, is severely ill, and the Ghost tells Scrooge that the boy will die if things don’t change. He then shows Scrooge two poor, starving children, named Ignorance and Want.

The fourth stave features the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows Scrooge his own funeral taking place in the future. It is sparsely attended by a few of Scrooge’s fellow businessmen only. The only two people who express any emotion over Scrooge’s passing are a young couple who owed him money, and who are happy that he’s dead.

Scrooge is then shown a very different scene: Bob Cratchit and his family mourning Tiny Tim’s death. Scrooge is shown his own neglected gravestone, and vows to mend his ways.

The fifth and final stave sees Scrooge waking on Christmas morning a changed man. He sends Bob Cratchit a large turkey for Christmas dinner, and goes to his nephew’s house that afternoon to spend Christmas with Fred’s family. The next day he gives Bob Cratchit a pay rise, and generally treats everyone with kindness and generosity.

A Christmas Carol wasn’t the first Christmas ghost story Dickens wrote. He’d already written ‘ The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton ’, featuring the miserly Gabriel Grub. This was featured as an inset tale in Dickens’s first ever published novel,  The Pickwick Papers (1836-7).

The tale shares many of the narrative features which would turn up a few years later in  A Christmas Carol : the misanthropic villain, the Christmas Eve setting, the presence of the supernatural (goblins/ghosts), the use of visions which the main character is forced to witness, the focus on poverty and family, and, most importantly, the reforming of the villain into a better person at the close of the story.

But the fact that Dickens had already developed the loose ‘formula’ for the story that would become, in many ways, his best-known work does nothing to detract from its power as a piece of storytelling.

Like a handful of other books of the nineteenth century – Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde spring to mind – A Christmas Carol has attained the force of a modern myth, an archetypal tale about the value of helping those in need, in the name of Christian charity and general human altruism. Oliphant’s description of the novella as like a new gospel neatly captures both its Christian flavour (though its message is far broader in its applications than this) and its mythic qualities.

But there is also something of the fairy tale – another form that was attaining new-found popularity in 1840s Britain thanks to the vogue for pantomimes based upon old French tales and the appearance of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in English – in the story’s patterning of three (three spirits visiting Scrooges), its supernatural elements, and the (spiritual or moral) transformation of its central character.

Indeed, it has almost become something of an origin-myth for many Christmas traditions and associations, and was published at a time when many things now considered typically Christmassy were coming into vogue: Prince Albert’s championing of Christmas trees at the royal court, for instance, and even the practice of sending Christmas cards (the first one was sent in 1843, the same year that A Christmas Carol was published). No wonder many people, when they hear talk of ‘the spirit of Christmas’, tend to think of goodwill to all men, charity, and benevolence.

Dickens invented none of these associations, but his novella helped to cement them in the popular consciousness for good. Even the association of Christmas with snowy weather may have partly been down to Dickens: there are a dozen references to snow in A Christmas Carol , and it’s been argued that Dickens associated snow with Christmas time because of a series of white Christmases in the 1810s, when he was a small child: memories which stayed with him into adulthood.

As with his previous novels, especially Oliver Twist , one of Dickens’s chief aims in A Christmas Carol , along with entertaining his readers, is to highlight to his predominantly middle-class readers the state of poverty and ‘want’ that afflicted millions of their fellow Britons. One of the most telling details in the novella is the revelation, following Scrooge’s conversion, that he will take on the role of father figure to Tiny Tim.

Since Tiny Tim already has a father, the point is perhaps not as clear to modern readers as it would have been to Dickens’s contemporaries: namely that the children of the poor were the responsibility of all of Britain, and if their own parents could not provide for them, then charity and generosity from the well-off was required.

Scrooge ensures this not only by improving Bob Cratchit’s financial situation (giving him a pay rise) but by becoming a friend to the family: money is needed to help fix the problem, Dickens argues, but it’s more valuable if accompanied by genuine companionship and communion between rich and poor, haves and have-nots, and if society works together to help each other.

On a stylistic note, the remarkable thing about A Christmas Carol is that it is entirely representative of Dickens’s work, even while it lacks many of the qualities that make him so popular.

In reflecting Dickens’s strong social conscience and his exposure of the plight of the poor and the callousness of those who refuse to play their part in making things better, it is emblematic of Dickens’s work as a champion of the poor. Its focus on money – and the dangers to those who place too much faith in money and not enough in their fellow human beings – it is also a wholly representative work.

But there are none of the wonderfully drawn comic characters at which he excelled and which, arguably, make his work so distinctively ‘Dickensian’. As a rule, the shorter the Dickens book, the less Dickensian it is, at least in this sense: Hard Times , A Tale of Two Cities , and the five Christmas books all lack those supporting comic characters which make his large, sprawling novels, whatever their shortcomings in plot structure, his most successful books.

But what it lacks in Fat Boys, Sam Wellers, Major Bagstocks, or Mr Micawbers, it more than makes up for in its concentrated plot structure and heart-warming portrayal of a man who learns to use his wealth, but also his sense of social duty, to help those who need it most.

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a christmas carol analytical essay

A Christmas Carol

Charles dickens, everything you need for every book you read..

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

A Christmas Carol: Introduction

A christmas carol: plot summary, a christmas carol: detailed summary & analysis, a christmas carol: themes, a christmas carol: quotes, a christmas carol: characters, a christmas carol: symbols, a christmas carol: literary devices, a christmas carol: quizzes, a christmas carol: theme wheel, brief biography of charles dickens.

A Christmas Carol PDF

Historical Context of A Christmas Carol

Other books related to a christmas carol.

  • Full Title: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.
  • When Written: September to December, 1843
  • Where Written: Manchester and London
  • When Published: 19 December 1843
  • Literary Period: Victorian Era
  • Genre: Social Commentary, Ghost Story
  • Setting: London
  • Climax: Scrooge realizes that he will die alone and unloved if he carries on treating people the way he does. The sight of Christmas Yet to Come awakens his sense of remorse and he is desperate to change his fate.
  • Antagonist: Scrooge is the antagonist of his social circle but the villain of the story is the immoral qualities that he represents, meanness and greed.
  • Point of View: A third-person, omniscient narrator

Extra Credit for A Christmas Carol

Dickens’ One Man Show. Dickens was not only famous for his written words, he also gave performances of his stories to rave reviews and standing ovations. He stood behind a reading desk and delivered all the voices of his characters himself.

Piracy Problems. Shortly after its publication, A Christmas Carol was illegally reproduced by Parley’s Illuminated Library and Dickens sued the company. But the Library went bankrupt, and Dickens unfortunately had to stump up a small fortune in legal fees.

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A Christmas Carol

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A Christmas Carol Essays

Have a capitalist christmas: the critique of christmas time in "a christmas carol" theoderek wayne, a christmas carol.

An audience member's gleeful first-hand account of Charles Dickens's public reading of "A Christmas Carol" unwittingly exposes an often overlooked contradiction in the story's climax: "Finally, there is Scrooge, no longer a miser, but a human...

Movement Within the Episodes Nathaniel Popper

Like Christmas morning itself - when each present represents a discrete mystery, separate from the last - the Christmas Carol is divided into a set of episodes. The book's chapters are episodic, with the duration of each spirit a single episode....

Ghost of an Idea Anonymous

Much of Charles Dickens' representation of morality in his most famous of Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, is derived from "the wisdom of our ancestors." (1) From the beginning of his narrative Dickens explains his usage of the phrase "dead...

A Secular Christmas: Examining Religion in Dickens' A Christmas Carol Michael A Burns

While in Christianity Christmas maintains certain religious icons that help school boys and girls remember the story of the birth of Christ, had Tiny Tim attempted to recite the Christian myth he likely would have earned a swift stroke of the...

Perceiving the Need for Social Change in "A Christmas Carol" Anonymous

Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” is set in Victorian London and tells the story of the transformation of a wicked, miserly Scrooge into a benevolent humanitarian via supernatural intervention. The invited reading persuades readers to accept that...

The Perfect Christmas in A Christmas Carol Anonymous 12th Grade

‘A Christmas Carol’ was immediately popular in Victorian England and soon, the rest of the world. It became a cultural icon, sparking a tradition to be read every Christmas Eve in many households. The relevance of the novella, even in the 21st...

What is the role of characterisation in 'A Christmas Carol'? Anonymous 12th Grade

“If they would rather die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Ebenezer Scrooge’s words encapsulate how he is characterised as a largely disagreeable, morally vacuous man. Silhouetted against the backdrop of...

Moralistic Language in A Christmas Carol Anonymous 12th Grade

“These are but the spirit of things that have been.” The metaphorical words of the Ghost of Christmas Past are typical of Dickens’ melodramatic writing style. Set in Victorian England, a time rife with greed and social stratification, Charles...

The Impact of Emotions in 'A Christmas Carol' Anonymous 12th Grade

“I wear the chain I forged in life… I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will, I wear it.” Jacob Marley’s words allude to the harrowing impact that emotions such as remorse have on the...

From Riches to Rags Jared Jageler 11th Grade

When a man’s name is synonymous with greed and misery, most readers would not associate him with the shining image of a hero. The hero’s journey is a classic literary pattern in which a character goes on an adventure, faces challenges, and comes...

Hypocrisy in a Christmas Carol: A Study of Scrooge Sejal Sharma 10th Grade

‘Jacob Marley was as dead as a doornail.’ The celebrated author Charles Dickens accentuates this inert nature of a door nail to the society to 1843 England through his classic novella ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The novella’s titular character, Ebenezer...

Portraying the Importance of Family in ‘A Christmas Carol’ Anonymous 10th Grade

‘A Christmas Carol’ is a novella written by Charles Dickens in 1843, the novella follows the journey of a stingy protagonist -Scrooge- and his many epiphanies that lead him to eventually understand the paramount role of family, joy and social...

a christmas carol analytical essay

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Essays on A Christmas Carol

Prompt examples for "a christmas carol" essays, redemption and transformation.

Discuss the theme of redemption and transformation in "A Christmas Carol." How does Ebenezer Scrooge's journey from a miserly and cold-hearted man to a generous and compassionate one illustrate the possibility of change and personal growth?

The Impact of the Ghosts

Analyze the roles and symbolism of the three spirits—Past, Present, and Future—in the novella. How do they influence Scrooge's understanding of his own life and the consequences of his actions? Discuss the lessons imparted by each ghost.

Social Critique and Poverty

Examine Charles Dickens' critique of social inequality and poverty in Victorian England. How does the novella shed light on the hardships faced by the poor and the indifference of the wealthy? Discuss the contrast between Scrooge's wealth and the Cratchit family's poverty.

The Symbolism of Christmas

Discuss the symbolism of Christmas in the novella. How does the holiday represent themes of joy, love, and goodwill, and how is it contrasted with Scrooge's initial disdain for it? Analyze the significance of the Cratchits' celebration.

Scrooge's Character Development

Analyze the growth and development of Ebenezer Scrooge as a character. How do his experiences with the spirits and the visions of his past, present, and future shape his personality and actions? Discuss the factors that lead to his transformation.

The Role of Tiny Tim

Explore the significance of the character Tiny Tim in the novella. How does his vulnerability and need for assistance highlight the importance of compassion and social responsibility? Discuss the impact of Tiny Tim on Scrooge's transformation.

Hook Examples for "A Christmas Carol" Essays

Anecdotal hook.

"As I delved into the heartwarming tale of Scrooge's redemption and transformation, I couldn't help but reflect on the timeless message of generosity, compassion, and the power of second chances."

Rhetorical Question Hook

"What does it take for a miserly old man to undergo a profound change of heart and rediscover the true spirit of Christmas? Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' invites us to explore themes of redemption and the human capacity for change."

Startling Quote Hook

"'I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.' Ebenezer Scrooge's vow serves as a poignant reminder of the novella's enduring message of goodwill and transformation."

Historical Hook

"Set in Victorian London during a period of social and economic upheaval, 'A Christmas Carol' provides a window into the challenges and inequalities of the time. Exploring this historical context adds depth to the narrative."

Narrative Hook

"Join Ebenezer Scrooge on his extraordinary journey through the past, present, and future as he confronts his own life choices. This narrative captures the essence of Charles Dickens' storytelling."

Character Transformation Hook

"Witness Scrooge's remarkable transformation from a cold-hearted miser to a benevolent soul. Analyzing the character arc adds depth to the narrative."

Moral Lessons Hook

"What moral lessons can we learn from the experiences of Scrooge and the spirits? Exploring the ethical dimensions of the novella prompts reflection on our own values and actions."

Christmas Spirit Hook

"How does 'A Christmas Carol' capture the essence of the holiday spirit? Delving into the themes of generosity, family, and community sheds light on the novella's enduring appeal."

Social Commentary Hook

"In a time marked by social disparities, 'A Christmas Carol' serves as a commentary on the plight of the poor and the responsibilities of the wealthy. Examining the novella's social impact offers valuable insights."

Dickens' Literary Legacy Hook

"How does 'A Christmas Carol' contribute to Charles Dickens' literary legacy? Exploring the novella's place in Dickens' body of work reveals its enduring significance in literature and culture."

Analysis of Scrooge's Transformation in a Christmas Carol

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How Scrooge Represents Hyprocisy in "A Christmas Carol"

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The Ghosts of Christmas as Illustrated in "A Christmas Carol"

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The Episodes of Christmas as Highlighted in "A Christmas Carol"

Exploring dickens’ views on money in a christmas carol, a study of the personality of scrooge in charles dickens’ book the christmas carol, how religion and secular practises became part of christmas, an analysis of the use of tone in a christmas carol, a book by charles dickens, a detailed look at the role of emotions in "a christmas carol", the perfect christmas from the perspective of "a christmas carol", charles dickens' terrible childhood, scrooge's transformation in "a christmas carol", generosity theme in "a christmas carol", theme of redemption in "a christmas carol", how does scrooge change throughout the novel, how is fred presented in "a christmas carol".

19 December 1843, Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas

Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Fred, Fezziwig, Belle, Peter Cratchit, Martha Cratchit, Fan, The Portly Gentlemen, Mrs. Cratchit

1. Jaffe, A. (1994). Spectacular sympathy: visuality and ideology in Dickens's A Christmas Carol. PMLA, 109(2), 254-265. (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/pmla/article/abs/spectacular-sympathy-visuality-and-ideology-in-dickenss-a-christmas-carol/5B6363CBCC63BF021719079F3B1269BB) 2. Davis, P. (1990). Literary History: Retelling A Christmas Carol: Text and Culture-Text. The American Scholar, 59(1), 109-115. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/41211762) 3. Butterworth, R. D. (1993). 'A Christmas Carol'and the masque. Studies in short fiction, 30(1), 63-70. (https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA14085617&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00393789&p=AONE&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7E3330b394) 4. Rossetti, C. G. (1887). A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Hobby horse, x-xi. (https://www.proquest.com/openview/b179c1c578656647/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=14714) 5. Ferrari, A., Signoroni, S., Silva, M., Gaggiotti, P., Veneroni, L., Magni, C., ... & Massimino, M. (2017). “Christmas Balls”: a Christmas carol by the adolescent cancer patients of the Milan Youth Project. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.5301/tj.5000597?journalCode=tmja) 6. Hancock, P. (2016). A Christmas carol: A reflection on organization, society, and the socioeconomics of the festive season. (https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amr.2016.0038?journalCode=amr) 7. Hancher, M. (2008). Grafting A Christmas Carol. SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 48(4), 813-827. (https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/1/article/254074/summary) 8. Burleson, D. R. (1992). Dickens's a Christmas Carol. The Explicator, 50(4), 211-212. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00144940.1992.9935321?journalCode=vexp20) 9. Preston, S. (2012). Existential Scrooge: A Kierkegaardian Reading of A Christmas Carol. Literature Compass, 9(11), 743-751. (https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1741-4113.2012.00909.x)

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a christmas carol analytical essay

“Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens Literary Analysis Essay

The story tells of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge’s ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge. One of the key themes in “A Christmas Carol” is repentance and redemption. The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge his childhood, teenage years, and importantly, the moment when he could have chosen a different path in life. This leads Scrooge to repent for his past choices and dedicate himself to living a better life. The Ghost of Christmas Present reveals how Scrooge’s current choices are affecting other people, leading him to further reflect on his past and present behavior. Ultimately, these experiences help Scrooge redeem himself and become a better person.

After his transformation, Scrooge is a changed man, he is full of love and kindness, and he regrets his previous ways. His repentance and redemption are complete when he dies surrounded by loved ones who cherish him; the Ghost of Christmas Past’s rehabilitation of Scrooge. It similarly takes Scrooge on a journey through his past, showing him how he became the cold-hearted man he is today (Thompson 268). By the end of their time together, Scrooge has learned from his mistakes and is beginning to repent for his ways. The lead character in the story is Ebenezer Scrooge; the ghosts that led Scrooge to repentance and redemption include the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come (Thompson 270). These spectral guides revealed to Scrooge the joys and sorrows of his own life, current events among the poor and a glimpse of what could become of him if he did not change his ways. Taken together, these remembrances persuade Scrooge to live out the rest of his days in charity and goodwill.

The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge scenes from his past, including happy memories and painful ones. This led Scrooge to see that his miserly ways had cost him dearly (DeVito 34). The ghost showed Scrooge the consequences of his choices in the present, including how they would affect people around him. This was the final push that led Scrooge to repent and seek redemption. Before his transformation, Scrooge was described as wrenching, scraping, covetous, clutching, grasping, and old sinner! Who cared more about money than anything else (Dickens 8). Scrooge was very different before the ghost visited him. He was mean, bitter, and lonely. Scrooge, at one point, mentioned that anybody who was for the idea of merry Christmas should be boiled and buried (Dickens 39). He refused to celebrate Christmas or enjoy life, but after the visit from the ghosts, Scrooge became a kinder, more generous man. He started to enjoy life again and even celebrated Christmas.

Ghost of Christmas Present is the most jovial and friendly of the three- after all, he is there to show Scrooge the joys and wonders of the festive season. Christmas Present revealed some disturbing things that were happening at that moment. For instance, he showed Scrooge how the Cratchits were celebrating Christmas despite their poverty (Dickens 79). He showed Scrooge how his nephew Fred was celebrating Christmas with friends and family. Similarly, he was shown how his nephews were speaking badly of him at the party (Dickens 57). Finally, he showed Scrooge scenes of future winters where no one would mourn his death because he had been such a mean and miserly person (DeVito 14). He showed Scrooge the joys and happiness that could be found during the Christmas season, reminding him of what he had lost over the years (McLaren 31). These experiences helped Scrooge realize the error of his ways and inspired him to change his life positively. Christmas Present played a pivotal role in Scrooge’s redemption and repentance.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the third and final spirit who visits Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This spirit represents Scrooge’s own future self and shows him what will become of him if he does not change his ways. The ghost takes Scrooge to several different scenes. The first is a graveyard, where Scrooge sees his own tombstone (Dickens 82). Scrooge saw a neglected grave with his name written; he could not believe it and asked himself whether he was the man who lay upon the bed (Dickens 83). The second is a scene in which two men are discussing the recent death of a fellow named Ebenezer Scrooge. The men speak unkindly about Scrooge, gleefully sharing stories of his stinginess and generally feeling glad that he is gone and guessing his funeral to be cheap. “I have not heard,” said the man with the large chin, yawning again. “Left it to his company, perhaps, he has not left it to me, that is all I know” (Dickens 71). The image of Scrooge on his knees crying at his own tombstone is a powerful portrayal of repentance and regret (Thompson 268). Scrooge Mourns himself shows the true nature of regret, which is not simply feeling sorry for oneself, since when he was alive, he could not imagine being buried in such a tomb.

There are a number of symbols and images used throughout Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that helped in pointing to some deeper themes in the story. One example is the use of fire and flames; whenever Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by a ghost, there is always a roaring fire in the room, lending an eerie feeling to the scene. However, the image of fire symbolizes hope and rebirth (Nizomova 11). Conversely, the fire is used to symbolize a number of things in the story, most notably, redemption. As Scrooge is redeemed by the end of the story, so too are the Cratchits. After all, it is through their shared experience of grief and loss that they come to understand each other and ultimately bond as a family, fire has connotations of hope and change (McLaren 15). As Dickens vividly describes the scene where Marley’s ghost first appears to Scrooge, readers get a sense of foreboding and despair.

Works Cited

DeVito, Carlo. Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Charles Dickens’ Legendary” A Christmas Carol.” Cider Mill Press, (2017).

Dickens, Charles. “A Christmas Carol.” (n.d.).

McLaren, Mary-Rose. “A Christmas Carol.” (2019).

Nizomova, Shodiyevna Shohista. “Symbolic Interpretations of Water and Fire in Modern Poetry.” Middle European Scientific Bulletin 11 (2021).

Thompson, Terry W. “The Belshazzar Allusion in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.” The Explicator 75.4 (2017): 268-270.

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a christmas carol analytical essay

A Christmas Carol is centred around Christmas - all the major events happened during the Christmas period - and the story is littered with the kinds of ideas we'd associate with Christianity's biggest celebration: love, charity, forgiveness, family.

It's pages are also full of the kinds of images we'd associate with christmas - the snowy streets, the turkey, piles of presents, candles and parlour games. but, although the christmas presented here seems like it's been around forever, dickens pretty much invented it., the key thing that dickens does in the book is shift the focus from christ himself and onto to the ideals that he stood for. the book itself only contains two significant direct references to jesus but the whole thing is dedicated to the ideas that jesus lived and died to promote: compassion and care for those less fortunate; forgiveness to those who have wronged us; and the dedication to the building of a good life in the hope you can avoid punishment after death..

a christmas carol analytical essay

Despite Dickens's best intentions, however, the book itself has had quite an interesting effect. By focusing on what some people had and other people didn't, Dickens makes the story quite deeply rooted in materialism - there are a LOT of passages that talk about the material luxuries of Christmas: food and gifts, primarily.

As a result, the new vision of christmas was also quite deeply rooted in material goods, and the book itself has been criticised from some quarters for encouraging the commericalisation of christmas - which is the way that christmas has become a celebration that centres around toys, food, drink, and presents and is no longer about charity, compassion or care for those less fortunate than us., the counter argument to this simply reminds us that dickens's novel is all about charity, compassion and care for those with less than us, and the fact that we've taken this image of christmas and turned it into a celebration of plastic toys says more about us than it does about dickens., christianity in a christmas carol, dickens's a christmas carol only contains a two direct references to jesus - one from fred at the beginning of the book and another from tiny tim later on. while reading on though, it's worth bearing in mind that the words "jesus" or "christ" don't ever actually appear in the book; both times jesus is mentioned he is simply alluded to not spoken of directly., during the opening of the book scrooge's nephew, fred, arrives to invite scrooge to christmas dinner. during his speech about the importance of christmas, fred says that christmas cannot be separated from " the veneration due to its sacred name and origin ." by this he means that christmas cannot be separated from the worship of christ, who gave it its name (it is literally the mass for christ, the name is just a shorter version of christ's mass.) this is slightly ironic as dickens says that the celebration can't be separated from christ and then writes a book about christmas which never even mentions him. and what's more, because dickens's book went on to radically change the way we viewed christmas, the book probably did more to increase the distance between christmas and man who it was originally supposed to celebrate than anything else., later in the book, bob is recounting a story about his son, tiny tim, and he says: " he told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon christmas day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see." this is a really lovely moment where tim is displaying a kind of gratitude for his disability, because it will help remind people of jesus on christmas day. this really does highlight just what a lovely kid tiny tim really is., alongside the jesus references, however, there is something else that's worth reflecting on when considering the relationship between the story and christianity: that of judgement after death. in the traditional christian tradition, people died and were then judged by god as to whether they would go to heaven or hell. dickens completely re-writes this narrative: marley isn't judged by god and, although his experiences after death aren't pleasant, he isn't living in hell., marley's living in something called purgatory, which is a kind of waiting room souls go to before they move to the "other side." it is interesting though as dickens also applies certain rules to this space - which, in some ways, is like him re-writing religion, albeit within a piece of fiction. marley claims that "it is required of every man that the spirit within him walk abroad amongst his fellow men, and if that spirit goes not forth in life it is condemned to do so after death.", the crucial question here, from a christian standpoint, is who requires this - because it's not written in the bible that god said it - and who condemns them because, again, there is no biblical verse that claims any of this. so although the book does support a lot of christian ideals, it also challenges them., the reasons behind this are probably quite simple: dickens was a devout christian, but victorian society was becoming increasingly secular - which means having no religion. dickens wanted to promote christian ideals, but i'm not sure that the book would have been as successful if he'd written it with a stronger focus on christianity itself., the book itself is, however, drenched in the best of christian ideology and so it is quite ironic that its long term effect was to remove christ from the christmas it invented. sometimes, works of art can have powerful unintended consequences. not least the way that christmas carol's message attacking those who celebrated money inadvertantly turned christmas into a celebration that is centred around it..., money as a symbol in a christmas carol, dickens's message in the book is quite clear: people with money should be a bit more generous with it in order to show this he contrasts the lives of rich vicotorians with their poor counterparts and suggests that the rich should be a little more generous with what they have. the inadvertant consequence of this - which means an accidental effect of it - is that money becomes a key symbol in a christmas carol., in this book care and compassion often take on a material form: scrooge gives cratchit a payrise to show he appreciates him, and sends him a turkey to say sorry; his money is what saves tiny tim; he gives cash to the portly gentlemen as a show of compassion for the poor; and so much of scrooge's character - whether as a generous man at the end, or a miser at the beginning - is based around his desire to share his wealth., though this seems (and is) a very reasonable idea, the emphasis on money as a means of showing care does have a slightly less appealing side-effect., the book played a really major role in creating the moden christmas that we know - so much so that the bbc made a documentary about dickens and called it "the man who invented christmas." the fact that dickens's book - which is about being generous with money - helped to shape the modern vision of christmas goes a long way towards explaining why our modern christmases are so materialistic., throughout the book, images of gift giving and food appear about as often as signs of humanity or compassion that don't cost money. the ghost of christmas present arrives on a pile of food; fezziwig's party has food and music and gifts; belle's husband returns home with presents; the cratchits spend what little money they have on a real christmas dinner to celebrate., the idea at the heart of this is that christmas is a time to celebrate with friends and family, with food and gifts as being a biproduct. but dickens loved food, and his writing really comes alive when he's losing himself in his descriptions celebrate the joys of material goods., so although you cannot argue that a christmas carol aims to celebrate money over compassion, it did create a certain vision of christmas that was rooted in the consumption of material goods; and that this vision of christmas is now dominant. though we may feel that is has always been this way, the history of christmas was often very different..., the short history of christmas, the 25th of december has always featured some kind of celebration in europe, for one key reason: it's right in the middle of winter, and from then on the nights start getting shorter., the romans celebrate the 25th of december as saturnalia. saturn was their god of the sun, and the 25th was the day when he was re-born and the days started becoming longer again. the celts - their religion is sometimes refered to as paganism - celebrated yule for the same reason., during the 6th century the pope declared that the 25th of december was the birthday of christ and started to celebrate christ's mass on the same day. there is interest in the fact that the romans and celts celebrated the re-birth of the sun on the 25th, while christianity used it to celebrate the birth of jesus, who is sometimes refered to as the son but i just find that a bit mind-bending to be honest..., during medieval times, christmas was a solumn and serious affair. it was venerated, and respected, but not entirely celebrated. the rich looked after the poor, laying out dinner for them and even, in some cases, serving them., then, in 1647, oliver cromwell, a puritan, banned christmas and for a long time the day was hardly celebrated at all. jane austen wrote a letter to her sister on christmas eve in 1798 and didn't even mention the significance of the date., during victoria's reign, however, as the country was becoming wealthy from the spoils of empire, the new rich wanted something to look forward to during the long, cold winters. as a result, victoria began encouraging christmas celebrations again at about the same time that dickens's book arrived. the two worked together to create the celebration we know today., the most significant difference between the modern christmas and previous ones was the shift in focus away from christ and towards consumption. though the 1900s were a reletively religious time, most victorians weren't big believers; their focus was increasingly scientific and moral questions were being dealt with by philosophers, politicians or economists rather than priests., as a result, dickens's christmas - and the christmas we know today - tends to be more about family, friends, food and presents than any veneration of jesus or his teachings. as i mentioned before, there is a certain irony in the fact that dickens's book, which is so drenched in christian ethics, possibly did more to move christmas away from being a religious celebration than anything else..

a christmas carol analytical essay

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  1. A Summary and Analysis of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol

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  2. A Christmas Carol: Full Book Analysis

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  3. A Christmas Carol: Mini Essays

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  23. AQA English Revision

    A Christmas Carol is centred around Christmas - all the major events happened during the Christmas period - and the story is littered with the kinds of ideas we'd associate with Christianity's biggest celebration: love, charity, forgiveness, family. It's pages are also full of the kinds of images we'd associate with Christmas - the snowy ...

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