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How successful is Dickens in A Christmas Carol at revealing social conditions in Victorian London?

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Introduction

How successful is Dickens in A Christmas Carol at revealing social conditions in Victorian London? Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, but spent most of his time in London and Kent. He grew up not being particularly wealthy, especially after his father was arrested for debt when dickens was nine years old. Charles Dickens knew poverty, especially poverty in London, and wanted to better himself through his writing. However he also wanted to 'educate the educated.' At that time the only people who could read were the upper and middle classes as they were the only people who could afford to go to school. But most of London and indeed the country's population were made up of poor, uneducated people. Dickens wanted to show the wealthy people what others suffered and wanted to tell them what life was really like for the poor. However, Dickens had to be very careful not to alienate his readers. If he produced a story that was too harsh then his readership simply wouldn't believe it. He had to tell them gently otherwise he would fail. I am going to examine whether dickens was successful in his aim of educating his readership, and whether he was accurate in his description. ...read more.

Middle

Scrooge clearly thinks that these poor people are a waste and it is their fault for having too many children, a system is in place and if they don't like it then tough. Dickens wants his readership's attitude to change and he has decided to do it through four ghosts, and four lessons. This is because he cannot tell them himself or he would never have got the book published as it would have been too risky, and so he got around this by using a third party - the ghosts. The ghost of Marley appears and confronts scrooge. Scrooge's way of judging people is by how good a businessman they are, just as Marley had done. In death Marley realises this is wrong, the first lesson. In order to change he has to receive three ghosts otherwise he 'cannot hope to shed the path I [Marley] tread.' Not only is dickens telling his character to listen to the ghosts and learn the lessons, he is saying it to the readers as well. The first ghost, the ghost of Christmas past, visits Scrooge and shows him up to a point where he could have chosen to go down a different path. Immediately after seeing how a simple act can make people happy Scrooge changes and wishes to say a word to Bob Cratchit and apologise. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens is so aware of his readership, however, that he has to insert the mechanical point telling his readers that Tiny Tim did not die. In conclusion Dickens does not describe the social conditions of the poor in London adequately. The proof of this is in Mayhew, who described the social and other appalling conditions in London for the poor. It shows that dickens is not being truthful. He shows the poor homogenously, grouping them together but there is a substantial between dickens version of Victorian London and reality. Dickens needs to get his point across about changing but he can only do so if he provides a sanitised version for his readers. In reality the Cratchits are very well off for people of their class, they have a respectable home and Bob Cratchit has a good job that pays fifteen shillings a week, which is a huge amount for a poor family. I think that dickens wanted to show London as it truly was for the poor but he couldn't do that because people were too sensitive about their own position and standing and felt vulnerable so he inserts pictures such as going to church and no suffering whilst alerting his readers to the problems. To a certain extent he is successful as he shows that there are problems in London but he does not go far enough to show the reality and alienate his readers. ...read more.

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