Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843), which first appeared in December 1843, just in time for Christmas, is one of Dickens’ most popular and famous publications.  It is an uplifting story of redemption, with touching and inspiring messages about how sharing goodwill and kindness will not only help the deserving people and others who receive these benefits but bring inner-contentment, appreciation, and other rewards to those who bestow them.

In this context, the story is also valued for expressing the belief that people deserve a second chance in life, a chance to be good when they were previously otherwise. 

Dickens also saw the story as a political text, as an indictment of liberal individualism and self-interest, and as a criticism of the notion that success in life is measured in the accumulation of wealth.  Dickens also attacks Malthusian demography and the notion of surplus population, to instead advocate treasuring every individual. Specifically, he attacks the new Poor Law of his times, and the injustices this reform inflicted upon the poor.  By contrast, Dickens believed in charity, and that goodness spreads goodness because of the interconnectedness of people, and that this was a way to address social ills. 

More than this, this story about the redemption of the central character Ebenezer Scrooge also works as a psychological allegory, which presents the diagnosis and cure of a man who ruined his life by embracing capitalist greed, who then achieved psychological health and wellbeing by embracing goodwill and generosity.

Finally, the story served to define how Dickens believed Christmas should be celebrated.  While acknowledging Christian values and ethics as being at the heart of this religious festival, Dickens promoted Christmas as a family-centred day of mutual appreciation, generosity, goodwill, feasting, games, dancing, charity to those in need, and as a day when enmities are put aside.  Of course, Dickens also advocates that these qualities and behaviours should not be confined to Christmas, but expressed widely.

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: A Christmas Carol meaning, A Christmas Carol themes, A Christmas Carol analysis, A Christmas Carol notes