Cultural and historical contexts

Money proves to be the “golden idol” that is worshipped by some of the characters in “A Christmas Carol”, and it is also shown through the novel, that it can destroy lives. Scrooge gives up the chance to have a loving family when he chooses money over his girlfriend Belle, who ends up having a happy family with another husband. Also, Scrooge’s old business partner, Jacob Marley, put his life to waste because of money and suffers in his afterlife which could have been easily avoided. “A Christmas Carol” also shows that people can be happy without money, just as long as they have a happy family.

For example, Scrooge’s nephew is not married to a rich lady, he is happily married to an ordinary woman and they are happy together. Scrooge does not approve of this marriage, as it is a love marriage. Most Victorians were expected to marry for money or into their class. “‘Because you fell in love’ growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas”, shows Scrooge’s disapproval of love marriages. Another example of money not being important is Bob Cratchit’s family.

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They live in poverty and have a lack of food, but still have a loving environment that keeps the family together and happy. The Cratchit’s happiness is shown through the excitement of the two younger Cratchit’s exclamation of “There’s such a goose Martha! ” From this, the reader can see that the young children are excited and happy about eating a goose for Christmas. Through Scrooge, Dickens shows that helping and being nice to friends and family can bring happiness and joy. After his encounter with all of the ghosts, Scrooge realises the error of his ways and becomes a changed man.

He then doubles Bob Cratchit’s salary which shows his appreciation to Cratchit, and then he visits his nephew resulting in a stronger relationship between them, than they ever had before. Dickens shows in “A Christmas Carol” that personal greed will lead to loneliness, while kindness and generosity leads to happiness. The main character in “A Christmas Carol” is Ebenezer Scrooge. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is described as being “tight fisted” and “a covetous old sinner” who despises Christmas and all things to do with happiness. Scrooge is a representation of most of middle upper class Victorian society.

He is described as “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner” a reflection on the Victorians, as many of them were selfish and did not care to help those less fortunate than themselves. Scrooge believed that anybody who could not afford to support themselves should go to the work houses, another view that was held by many Victorians. These views are put across to the reader on page ten. Scrooge has just been asked to give some money to charity to help support people on the streets. He replies with the rhetorical questions: “Are there no Prisons? ” and “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?

” Scrooge asks about these two organizations as he has to pay taxes to support them – “I help to the support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there. ” He is already unhappy about paying taxes, so he would obviously not like to be asked to pay more money towards the poor. In the story, Scrooge had no feelings toward his family or friends and only had a professional relationship with them, creating a hostile feeling between them. For example, Bob Cratchit’s wife did not want to toast to Scrooge at the Christmas dinner because of the way he treats Bob Cratchit.

Another example of bad hostile relationships leading to no friends is Jacob Marley. A quote about Marley is that Scrooge was Marley’s “sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. ” This tells that if you treat everyone badly, nobody will care about you. This could be a warning for what might happen to Scrooge if he doesn’t change his ways. Many people in the novel have a negative view of Scrooge because of his attitude. For example, when Scrooge has died, the thieves are able to steal Scrooge’s possessions because nobody cares about Scrooge.

Scrooge sees money as an important factor in life and as a result of this money influences him through most of his life. This is shown when he is talking to the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ghost says that he has over eighteen-hundred brothers. Scrooge replies “A tremendous family to provide for. ” This shows that he is always thinking about money. The fact that he always thinks about money, results into his ex-fianci?? e, Belle, breaking up with him. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, is an important character, and is a direct contrast to Scrooge. He is the perfect embodiment of Christmas spirit, unlike his uncle.

On page seven, Dickens uses the nephew to outline the “perfect” vision of Christmas. According to Scrooge, the nephew “has no right to be happy”, but he is still content and excited, despite the fact that he is poor. This is a reverse of Scrooge. The nephew is happy but poor, while Scrooge is rich but always unhappy. It is clear, that although Scrooge treats his nephew badly, the nephew stills respects him. When Scrooge visits his nephew on Christmas, the nephew is very happy and is glad that Scrooge is joining them. Another important character in the book is Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit. He is the father of a large and struggling family.

Despite the fact that he earns very little and lives a hard life, he is still very happy and cheerful. The Cratchits celebrated Christmas the way that Dickens thought that it should be celebrated. They celebrated Christmas together and spend time with each other as a family. In the book it says, that he earns “fifteen ‘Bob’ a week. ” This is a pun in Victorian times, ‘Bob’ was slang for ‘a shilling’, and there were twenty shillings in a pound. This means that he only earned seventy-five pence a week. Dickens mentions this as people were exploited and made to work for very little amounts of money.

He also uses the pun as it is memorable and it will stick in people’s memory. The seventy-five pence a week he earned, had to support a family of eight. He had six children and is especially dedicated to his disabled son, Tiny Tim. In the book, Scrooge is visited, on Christmas Eve, by the Ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. He is told that if he doesn’t change his ways, he will end up like Marley. He is then visited by three Ghosts of Christmas: one of Christmas Past, one of Christmas Present and the final of Christmas Yet To Come.

The fact that Scrooge is visited by three ghosts could be a religious reference to the Holy Trinity. Having three ghosts is also a language device: a list of three. This is used as it makes things more memorable. Jacob Marley haunts Scrooge in a number of ways. First, his face appears in place of Scrooge’s door-knocker as Scrooge approaches his house. Secondly, Scrooge thinks that there is a “locomotive hearse” ascending the stairs as he climbs them. This is a historical reference, as locomotives were fairly recent. Also, this could be a forewarning to Scrooge of a close death.

Thirdly, Marley haunts Scrooge by making his face appear in the fireplace in Scrooge’s bedroom. In Victorian times, a fireplace was central to each home. Although now it has been replaced with central heating, it had far more significance than central heating. Scrooge is then haunted when Marley makes every bell in the house ring by itself. The bells are warning bells, telling Scrooge, and the reader, that something is about to happen. The fifth and final time that Scrooge is haunted by Marley, is when Marley shows himself to Scrooge.

The ghost of Marley has the same voice, hairstyle and clothes that he had in life, but he is completely transparent and was “captive, bound and double-ironed” with chains which are described as “long, and wound about him like a tail; it was made… of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. ” He says that the chains were made by what he did in life and are there for punishment. The cash-boxes are symbols of Scrooge’s and Marley’s life, as they had spent all of their time trying to earn as much money as they possibly could.

As he spent his life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and helpless to fill his pocket, Marley is damned to walk the earth for all eternity, never to find rest or peace. The Ghost of Christmas Past is described as a contradiction to itself. The first sentence says “It was a strange figure – like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man. ” This shows the reader that although the both features of a young child and features of an old man have been combined to create a form for this spirit.

This is backed up by the statement that “Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. ” The fact that it has childlike features could be a reference to baby Jesus, which is the reason that Christmas is celebrated around the world. Despite it being winter in the book, the Ghost wore nothing except for a tunic. “Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white. ” The spirit also “held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand.

” Holly is a symbol of Christmas and it makes sense for the Ghost of Christmas Past to hold a symbol of Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Present is described as looking more like a human than the Ghost of Christmas Past did. He wore a “green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. ” This is a reference to Father Christmas, as before Coca-Cola popularised the red suit, he was usually depicted wearing a green coat, which was bordered with white fur. Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present does not wear clothes over his whole body. “Its capacious breast was bare” and “its feet…

were also bare. ” “Its capacious breast was bare”, is an example of alliteration and is used to make it memorable. The ghost also wears holly, one of the symbols of Christmas. “… and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath. ” When Scrooge asks the spirit if he has any brothers, the Ghost replies “more than eighteen hundred”. It could be guessed that the exact number of brothers he has is eighteen hundred and forty three. This is because the book was published in the year 1843. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is significantly different from the other two ghosts.

It never speaks and its face is never seen. The reason for this is to create a sense of mystery and also causes the reader to feel a bit uneasy about the ghost. “It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. ” This is totally different from the other two spirits as they are not completely clothed and leave some of their body “bare”. Before the ghost shows Scrooge anything, the reader can already see that it will be related to death. Dickens introduces the spirit by saying “The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.

When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. The word “slowly”, “gravely” and “silently” all relate to death, especially “gravely”. This is dramatic irony, as the reader knows that something about death will be shown, but Scrooge has no idea. People in the Victorian era were much more religious than people are today and Christmas had a higher religious significance than it does today. Many people then, were devout Christians and took Christmas very seriously. They also took a different view on what Christmas was really about.

A modern, typical twenty-first-century Christmas is much more materialistic than a typical Victorian Christmas would be like. Family, happiness, charity and forgiveness were the main values that were considered to be the important elements of a Victorian Christmas. At Christmas time, Victorians would gather around their fireplace with their friends and fireplace. In the modern day, fire represents danger and death. However, the Victorians saw the fire as a symbol of warmth and hope. On page seventy-two, the Cratchits gather around the fire on Christmas: “Then all the Cratchit family drew around the hearth.

” The hearth is the floor of the fireplace. This is a historical reference as today a family would not need to sit around a fireplace as most homes have central heating. Also, today a family would gather around a TV and watch it for entertainment. So the fire could be considered as a form of entertainment for the poor people of the Victorian era. In Scrooge’s office, there are two fireplaces; Scrooge has the larger fireplace, while Cratchit only has the smaller fireplace – “Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.

” Cratchit can’t even add to his fire as “Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room. ” This is a representation of most Victorian workplaces: the boss would take advantage of the employee. The employee would not argue with the way things were run as he needs his job so he can support his family. From the book, “A Christmas Carol”, the reader can learn quite a lot about how the Victorians lived their lives. Dickens shows the true value of Christmas, how significant money really is to living a happy life and how being nice to people can change the way people treat you.

Dickens also exposed the rift that there was between the top of the class table and the bottom. The reader is also shown how money influenced people but had no affect on others and this affected workplace, employees and their employers. Throughout the story, Dickens paints a very clear picture of what life was like in Victorian society. He highlights the flaws within Victorian society that helped lead to poverty, child labour, poor living conditions and working conditions. Dickens made the most of his ability to write stories and used his skill to his advantage to produce an educational, yet interesting story.