A Christmas Carol: History & Facts

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  • 0:04 The Author & The Origin
  • 1:57 The Historical Context
  • 3:01 Theater & Film Adaptations
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

This lesson provides an overview of 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. You'll learn about the author, his background, and how he came to write the book. You'll also examine the book's historical context and its place in the world today.

The Author & The Origin

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an extremely popular British novelist who wrote during the Victorian period of literary history. In this period, advances in mass production made it possible to cheaply print books, so novels were considered a low-brow form of entertainment rather than a form of literary art.

Born into a lower middle-class family that sank into hardship, Dickens was forced to work in a boot-blacking factory at a young age, work that had a lasting impact on his worldview and influenced much of his writing. He eventually found employment as a newspaper reporter before beginning his prolific literary career. His novella A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, is one of his most well-known stories. In fact, even if you haven't read it, you've probably seen at least one movie version of it. A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted businessman who is visited by three spirits one Christmas Eve.

Partly because of his traumatic experiences as a child laborer, Dickens was concerned about the welfare of the working class in England. During his tours in the U.S., Dickens encountered poor people, sufferers of mental illness, and prison inmates, and he became moved by their harsh living conditions. One of his own nephews was handicapped and became the inspiration for A Christmas Carol's sick boy, Tiny Tim. Although England's climate is typically temperate, memories of unusually frigid Christmases during Dickens's childhood formed the harsh backdrop for the story.

These and other factors, along with his own need for money at the time, contributed significantly to the writing of A Christmas Carol. The story contains the themes of redemption and rebirth and underscores the importance of empathy, goodwill, and generosity toward the working class and the economically disadvantaged.

The Historical Context

A Christmas Carol is the first of Dickens's 'Christmas books,' which were published annually in periodicals for several years. It is set in England sometime in the early 1840s. Interestingly, Christmas trees, although featured in royal and upper-class homes beginning sometime around 1840, were not yet a traditional part of the holiday for the middle and lower classes, so none are present in Dickens's novella.

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