Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 and died in 1870. He was not poor when his parents were not poor when he was born but his dad went bankrupt when he was twelve years old and they were all sent to debtor’s prison. Charles Dickens was then sent to work in a blacking factory and earned six shillings a week, he did that until his aunt died and they used the money that was left for them to repay all their debts. When they moved to London he decided to become a writer and decided to write about the poor, to raise the awareness of the rich Victorians who did not care about the injustices of their society.
The conditions in London in the Victorian times was not very good because there was a constant smog over it and people drank the unfiltered water from the River Thames. The streets were full of dung, which led to the spread of disease; the houses were overcrowded (30 people to 1 house). There was no proper sewage or housing and many poor people were sent to workhouses or prisons. Many turned to crime as a means of support.
Christmas in the Victorian time would have been good if you were rich but if you were poor it was the worst time of the year. The poor would get some coal, nuts and oranges in the stocking. They would also have to pay to the baker to cook their goose because they wouldn’t have enough room to cook it by them selves. By comparison the rich at Christmas would get rocking horses and other wooden toys. They would have cooks doing everything for them and they would eat turkey instead of goose. Our views of a Victorian Christmas tend to be idealised and exaggerated influenced by images on Christmas cards. Dickens wanted to show his readers the true reality. Scrooge is the central character of the novel ‘A Christmas carol’. Scrooge was a tight fisted hand to the grindstone. He was a ‘ squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained as an oyster. The cold within him froze his features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and the spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.’
Dickens deliberately created the character of scrooge to represent all the Victorians who do not consider those less fortunate than themselves. The workplace that he owned was a counting house and it was a cold, damp and dark place. His clerk had to sit in a ‘dismal little cell a bit like a tank.’ The fire was so small that it looked like it would only fit one piece of coal. The coal was kept in the coal box in Scrooges office. They had to try and keep warm with a candle. Scrooges house were chambers that belonged to his deceased partner Jacob Marley. ‘They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lower pile of buildings up a yard, where it had little business to be, the other rooms had been let out as offices.’ Dickens uses the theme of darkness as a metaphor for evil and despair. He deliberately chooses cold hard words in his description of Scrooge so that the readers do not feel any sympathy for him.
A good example of how mean Scrooge is can be found in his treatment to others. He treats his nephew Fred as if he is some person that he had never met before trying to get money from him. Fred is full of life and he loves Christmas, he is a contrast to Scrooge. Scrooge treats his clerk Bob Cratchit as if he is a slave and he only gets one day off a year and that is Christmas Day. Bob only gets one piece of coal a week. Scrooge treats the charity people the same way as he treats his nephew and as if they are stupid for asking Scrooge for money for people that don’t work. Scrooge hates Christmas and everything that is associated with it he says ‘It’s a poor excuse to pick a mans pocket every 25th December’
When Jacob Marley’s ghost appears in Scrooge’s room Scrooge just tries to deny seeing him and he says that it could be something he had eaten and he was seeing things ‘There’s more gravy than grave about you’. Marley appears with chains and heavy weights, representing the sins of his life that he must wear for eternity. He also says that Scrooges chains will be longer because he has had seven years since Marley died to make it longer. He is warning Scrooge that he has a chance to change his ways.
The first spirit appears glowing and holding a light to aid in the darkness. This represents shining the truth on Scrooge’s life. He takes Scrooge back to his early childhood and the reader can see how Scrooge changed and began to think more about money than people’s emotions.
The second spirit appears as a horn of plenty. This symbolises abundance, power, excess and consequently the responsibility that comes with such good fortune. He shows Scrooge the Cratchit household and how happy they are despite being poor. For the first time Scrooge realises how he has abused his power as an employer.
The third spirit appears as death-faceless and dark He doesn’t speak or advise Scrooge. He only shows him the future and gives Scrooge the opportunity to draw his own conclusions. Scrooge doesn’t like what he sees and begs for the opportunity to change. He symbolises that we can change if we change our choices. All three spirits play an important part in changing Scrooge’s character.
At the end of ‘A Christmas carol’ Scrooge’s character is completely different. At the beginning he hates Christmas and does not like giving away lots of money to anyone, especially the poor. He also has no friends. But at the end of the book he says ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone he sees and gives some of his money to the charity people to give to the poor. He also buys the prize turkey from the butchers and takes it round to Bob Cratchit’s house and gives him a raise and a longer holiday. The Victorian audience is meant to think that they to should consider the less fortunate especially at Christmas when the differences are highlighted even more. Scrooge has learnt that if he is kind to people then they will be kind to him back and think about him even when he dies. Dickens was trying to teach his Victorian audience the true meaning of Christmas which is ‘it better to give rather than receive.’