A Christmas Carol Setting

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  • 0:03 Setting of 'A Christmas Carol'
  • 0:37 Victorian England
  • 1:34 Scrooge vs. Cratchit Home
  • 2:36 Christmas Eve Ghosts
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

While it's easy to say that Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' is set in Victorian England, the truth is that there is so much more to it than that. From rooms to dreams, this lesson explains the novel's setting.

Setting of A Christmas Carol

Few novels feature settings as important to the story as those of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Dickens' novel is a morality tale that can largely be told through the setting of each scene. It follows the greedy, cold businessman Ebenezer Scrooge through a visit with three ghosts on Christmas Eve. These ghosts provide both Scrooge and readers with an intimate look at the main character's past and present, along with a sneak peek into his future.

Victorian England

A Christmas Carol is set in Victorian England, a time of great contrasts of which Dickens was very critical. The rich live an enormously luxurious life and are able to take advantage of the latest inventions, such as gas lighting and railroads. Meanwhile, the majority of the population is much poorer. The poor live on the edge of starvation and are largely ignored by the wealthy and the powerful.

Around the holidays, however, that situation would temporarily change. England in the Victorian era prided itself on being a Christian country. This meant that people brushed aside differences in income and status during the festive season of Christmas. In A Christmas Carol, donations are solicited, parties are planned, and everyone is supposedly filled with joy in London.

Scrooge vs. Cratchit Home

The holiday spirit of generosity is not the case in Ebenezer Scrooge's house. Despite being quite well off, if not outright wealthy, he lives a most uncomfortable existence. He returns each night to an empty home, where the only warmth comes from the few coals that he decides to burn. He doesn't want to spend the extra money to properly heat his house. For Scrooge, Christmas Day is one of lost profits, so he simply doesn't see the point to the holiday.

On the other hand, his clerk, Bob Cratchit, lives a much more humble life. He squeezes into a small hovel with his whole family, including his son Tiny Tim. The reader learns that Tiny Tim is deathly ill, and lifesaving medical treatment is out of reach, due to the family's financial situation. Still, the family enjoys the holiday and the Cratchit house is filled with a warmth that doesn't exist in the Scrooge household.

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