Read the information below and attached. Summarise the information to use in your analysis of A Christmas Carol.
TASK 2: Learn some of the key quotations that have been analysed for you. Learnm the AO2 and AO3 elements.
Some important social, cultural and historical contexts
Social and cultural contexts:
Dickens was not just a celebrated author; he was a social reformer, deeply concerned with the harsh plight of the working and lower classes – a situation he sought to remedy using his writing and the recognition that it brought him. He used his fame as a platform to reach a wide audience, publicising the deplorable conditions in which the poor and destitute lived and worked. He was particularly concerned by the health, well-being and treatment of children, always the most vulnerable members of any society and was profoundly affected by two things concerning children shortly before composing ‘A Christmas Carol’.
The first was a Royal Commission report by Lord Shaftesbury on the terrible and shocking working conditions of children aged 10 years old and younger in underground coal mines. This led to a change in the law a year later, with the Mines Act of 1842 banning children under 10 years old from working “down the pit” (although a 16 hours-long working day for children was still legal until 1844, when it was reduced to a 9 hours-long working day, six days a week for 9 to 13 years old children!)
The second, about one month before he began writing the novella, occurred when Dickens visited the Field Lane ‘ragged school’ – funded solely by charity, for destitute children – and was so horrified by what he described as “the sickening atmosphere … of taint and dirt and pestilence” in the overcrowded, disease-ridden, poorly lit and ventilated building in a terrible state of disrepair that he resolved to do something about. His contribution to the political debate about poverty and social responsibility is his novella, ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Dickens himself never quite experienced the same levels of poverty suffered by so many of his fellow Londoners but his own family was touched by hardship and separation. Dickens’ parents and some siblings were imprisoned in Marshalsea debtor’s prison because of his father’s debts and while Dickens and his sister Fanny were spared this indignity, they suffered the trauma of separation from their family. Dickens himself had to leave school during this time and went to work for several months in a factory. Speaking of this experience later, Dickens said he never forgot the “sense … of being utterly neglected and hopeless.”
POLITICS, POVERTY AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Dickens used his talents as an author to call attention to the plight of the poor in Victorian England, often raising the thorny question of who was ultimately responsible for the care of those less fortunate in society: the Government? The Church? Individuals? Some combination of all three?
Dickens’ characterisation of the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” that is Ebenezer Scrooge who, when asked for a charitable donation to the poor at Christmas, demands to know: “Are there no prisons?” is nothing short of a satirical attack on sentiments widely held by members of the upper class in London society at the time his novella was published.
‘The Poor Law’
The Poor Law was the way that the poor were helped in 1815. The law said that each parish had to look after its own poor. If you were unable to work then you were given some money to help you survive. However, the cost of the Poor Law was increasing every year. By 1830 it cost about £7 million and criticism of the law was mounting.
The money was raised by taxes on middle and upper class people, causing resentment of poor people by the wealthy. The rich complained that their money was being spent on idle people who chose not to work. Critics also suggested that financial support was making the situation worse because it encouraged poor people to have children that they could not then afford to look after.
‘The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act’
In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed by Parliament. This was designed to reduce the cost of looking after the poor as it stopped money going to poor people except in exceptional circumstances. Now if people wanted help they had to go into a workhouse to get it. The poor were given clothes and food in the workhouse in exchange for several hours of manual labour each day. Families were split up inside the workhouse. People had to wear a type of uniform, follow strict rules and were on a bad diet of bread and watery soup. Conditions were made so terrible that only those people who desperately needed help would go there.
Thomas Malthus was an economist who claimed that the population of England, notably London, was growing much faster than the country’s ability to feed it. He felt that population growth could be kept in check by war, famine or disease. His somewhat ghastly attitude to the “surplus population” was arguably the inspiration for Dickens’ hard-hearted, hard-headed man of business, Ebenezer Scrooge who – when told that the poor would rather die than go to the workhouses – unashamedly asserts:
“If they would rather die … they had better do it and decrease the surplus population!”
A few of you have asked for some additional revision tasks. I have put a few for each literature topic below.
AQA English Literature
An Inspector Calls
Jekyll and Hyde
A Christmas Carol
Re-read stave 1 of A Christmas Carol.
Task 1: Write a Summary of Stave One: Marley’s GhostOn a foggy __________________ in London, a shrewd, mean-spirited cheapskate named Ebenezer Scrooge works meticulously in his counting-house. Outside the office creaks a little sign reading “__________________”. Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner, has died seven years previous. Inside the office, Scrooge watches over his clerk, a poor man named Bob Cratchit. The smoldering ashes in the fireplace provide little heat even for Bob’s __________________ room. Despite the harsh weather Scrooge refuses to pay for another lump of __________________ to __________________ the office.
Suddenly, a ruddy-faced young man bursts into the office offering holiday greetings: “Merry Christmas!”. The young man is Scrooge’s jolly __________________ Fred who has stopped by to invite Scrooge to Christmas dinner. The grumpy Scrooge responds with a “Bah! Humbug!” refusing to share in Fred’s Christmas __________________. After Fred departs, a pair of portly gentlemen enters the office to ask Scrooge for a charitable __________________ to help the poor. Scrooge angrily replies that prisons and __________________ are the only charities he is willing to support and the gentlemen leave empty-handed. Scrooge confronts Bob Cratchit, __________________ about Bob’s wish to take a day off for the holiday. He begrudgingly agrees to give Bob a day off but insists that he arrive at the office all the earlier the next day.
Scrooge follows the same old routine, taking dinner in his usual __________________ and returning home through the dismal, fog-blanketed __________________ streets. Just before entering his house, the __________________ on his front door, catches his attention. A ghostly image in the curves of the knocker gives the old man a momentary __________________: it is the peering face of Jacob Marley! When Scrooge takes a second look, he sees nothing but a doorknocker. With a disgusted “Pooh-pooh,” Scrooge opens the door and trudges into his bleak quarters. He makes little effort to brighten his home: “__________________” is cheap, and Scrooge liked it”. As he plods up the wide staircase, Scrooge, in utter disbelief, sees a locomotive hearse climbing the stairs beside him.
After rushing to his __________________, Scrooge locks the door behind him and puts on his dressing gown. As he eats his __________________ before the fire, the carvings on his __________________ suddenly transform into images of Jacob Marley’s face. Scrooge, determined to dismiss the strange visions, blurts out “Humbug!”. All the bells in the room fly up from the tables and begin to __________________ sharply. Scrooge hears footsteps thumping up the stairs. A ghostly figure floats through the closed door – Jacob Marley, transparent and bound in chains.
Scrooge shouts in disbelief, __________________ to admit that he sees __________________ ghost–a strange case of food poisoning, he claims. The ghost begins to murmur: he has spent __________________ years wandering the Earth in his heavy __________________ as punishment for his sins. The ghost tells Scrooge that he has come from beyond the grave to save him from this very fate. He says that Scrooge will be __________________ by __________________ spirits over the next three nights – the first __________________ appearing at one o’clock in the morning and the final spirit arriving at the last stroke of midnight. He rises and backs toward the window, which opens almost magically, leaving a trembling Scrooge __________________ with fear. The ghost __________________ to Scrooge to look out the window, and Scrooge complies. He sees a throng of spirits, each bound in chains. They __________________ about their failure to lead honourable, caring lives and their __________________ to reach out to others in need as they and Marley disappear into the mist. Scrooge stumbles to his bed and falls instantly asleep.
|mantelpiece||gestures||Scrooge & Marley||refusing|
Task 2: Questions – Answer in full sentences using evidence from the text wherever possible.
- Who is Jacob Marley?
- Who is Bob Cratchit?
- Scrooge is a solitary as an… – What technique is this? What does it suggest about Scrooge in stave one?
- Who are the charitable gentlemen collecting for?
- What does Scrooge want to decrease? Which historical figure does this relate to?
- What is Marley weighed down by?
- What does Marley say was his ‘business’? What does it suggest about how Marley is changed in death?
The BBC have published some great images of the first illustrations for A Christmas Carol.
This essay provides some additional insights into A Christmas Carol. It shouldn’t take long. There is a challenge task at the bottom. Please print in the resource centre at school.
Mrs. Cullis’ classes Yr 9, 10 and 11 for Wednesday 6th. December
‘Tell me what man that was..’
‘The spirits have done it all in one night’.
(Scrooge)’…chuckled ’till he cried’
‘He went to church…’
‘Not a farthing less. A great many backpayments are included in it.’