G. C. S. E Prose Study Coursework: With reference to context, language and structure, consider some of the factors that have contributed to the enduring popularity of A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol, 1843, is set against the backdrop of the industrial revolution. It was a time when industry was thriving but the gap between the poor and the rich was growing. Dickens’ London was an unpleasant place to live due to atmospheric pollution, filth on the streets and widespread disease and illness. The level of general education was poor and poverty was rife.
Charles Dickens influence to write the novel came from his own situation as a young boy consigned to the blacking factory as a result of his fathers debts. Other financial pressures were exerted upon him as his wife was expecting their fifth child. Dickens central concern is about children. Christmas symbolises a time of happiness in particular for children but this is not so for those living in poverty. Dickens wanted to highlight the plight of the poor and their social conditions. In A Christmas Carol Dickens combines the misery of the poor with the joy of Christmas.
He felt that the only time the rich seemed to show any awareness of the suffering of others is during the Christmas period it’s a time “when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys” Dickens completed the novel in a very short time and had little confidence that it would be successful. He decided to fund the publishing of the book himself and spared no expense after a feud with his publishers.
To make it affordable to many he set the price at 5 Shillings. Within days of its release it sold six thousand copies but despite this Dickens profits were low. The enduring popularity of A Christmas Carol is still evident today. There are many significant factors that contribute to this. For this essay three of these will be discussed. Firstly, the novel stirs a range of emotional responses in the reader. In Stave One we are introduced to Scrooge who is portrayed as a cruel, miserable character.
Dickens uses lists of adjectives to portray Scrooge, “squeezing, wrenching, grasping clutching” This describes Scrooge’s attitude and treatment of others as a moneylender. His lust for money makes him a ‘covetous, old sinner. ‘ He is greedy and longing to possess as much as possible. This is passing judgement with a religious reference. Dickens has used present participles to demonstrate that this is Scrooge’s usual continuous attitude and not just assigned to that particular day. Dickens describes Scrooge’s character and the setting in much detail.
It is Christmas Eve and the weather is dark, bleak and foggy. Dickens uses words that connect to the weather to describe Scrooge’s character, ‘The cold within him froze his old features… he carried his own low temperature always about with him. ‘ This characterisation of Scrooge suggests to the audience that just like the weather, Scrooge is gloomy, lacks warmth and is uninviting. Dickens continues to emphasise the similarities between the setting and Scrooge ‘No warmth could warm him, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he.
‘ This deliberate and explicit opinion leaves the reader in no doubt of how mean and evil Scrooge is. Dickens uses different similes to highlight Scrooge’s uncaring attitude, such as ‘hard and sharp as a flint’ and ‘secret and self-contained and solitary as an oyster. ‘ These similes show Scrooge’s hardness and his isolation from the rest of society. By making Scrooge such an evil person the reader is drawn to carry on reading the novel to see what fate awaits him. This portrayal is intensified even further as Scrooge demonstrates his lack of generosity towards other even at Christmas despite his own wealth.
He is asked to give to a charity and declines saying that poor people should be sent to prison or workhouses as he is not concerned about them. When he is told that the poor would rather die than go to prison or workhouses he replies, “if they would rather die… they had better do it and decrease the surplus population. ” This statement from Scrooge creates a feeling of utter disbelief and dislike in the reader. In Stave Two the reader begins to see beyond Scrooges cold and uncaring attitude. The reader is given some insight into Scrooges life as he was growing up. He came from a poor and lonely existence.
This allows the reader to start to understand why Scrooge maybe the way he is and that he is mean with his money because he is afraid of being poor again. We see that Scrooge is able to show some feelings when he starts to sob after recognising himself as the little abandoned boy at school. The image of a lonely boy makes the reader warm to him. Dickens introduces the idea that Scrooge has the potential to change. This captures the reader’s attention again as it demonstrates that Scrooge did once have appreciation for others. He remembers the little boy that came singing carols and his nephew’s earlier visit.
We see that Scrooge is remorseful that he did not treat them better. The spirit takes Scrooge to a place where he used to work and is reminded how he had enjoyed Christmases in the past. He reflects on how he treats his employee when he remembers the kindness of his boss Mr Fezziwig had shown him. Finally, before the second spirit visits, the reader is drawn into Scrooge’s sadness when he sees Belle happily married to someone else. Scrooge realises the importance of a family and is so saddened by this that he asks the spirit to “remove him from this place. ” The reader starts to feel sympathy for Scrooge.