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Flashcards in A Christmas Carol Context Deck (5)
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Dickens' message on poverty

Dickens experienced poverty as a child when his father was sent to a debtor's prison and young Charles had to work in a factory. The harsh conditions made a lasting impression: he sought to draw attention to the plight of the poor by setting the novella against a grim background of Victorian poverty.


London and inequality

*The frequent and abrupt jumping between scenes of middle class comfort (Fred) and grinding poverty (The Cratchits, Beetling shop) emphasises the close proximity and contrast of the different classes, and highlights the Christian concept of 'love thy neighbour'.
* The urban setting allows Dickens to exercise his fondness for hyperbole, with the exaggerated extremes of poverty adding to the effect of the 'plight of the poor'.


The New Poor Law, 1834

In order to deter poor people from claiming financial help, the government made claimants live in workhouses: essentially, prisons for the poor. Dickens hated this law. He spent 1843 touring factories and mines in England and wished to highlight the situation facing poor people. 'A Christmas Carol' was published soon after - in December 1843.


The ingredients for a hit novella

Dickens' previous novel had not sold well and so he needed a hit. He deliberately combined elements that he knew would appeal to Victorian readers: a parable; the supernatural in the form of a ghost story; a happy conclusion; and Christmas.


Dickens' construction of secular (non-religious) Christmas values

Until the mid-1800s, Christmas was solely a religious festival. Dickens helped to popuarise many of the cultural elements that we now associate with Christmas. This imagery (food, decorations, music) is used throughout the novella. This has contributed to a more secular Christmas, based on the values of goodwill, benevolence/ generosity, and forgiveness.