Analyse the ways in which Dickens highlights certain aspects of 19th Century London in his novel 'A Christmas Carol'

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Analyse the ways in which Dickens highlights certain aspects of 19th Century London in his novel ‘A Christmas Carol’

'A time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer' this is a good example that represents Scrooges overall attitude to Christmas and those who celebrate it.


The central character of a Christmas Carol is Ebenezer Scrooge a man portrayed by Dickens as a miser who cares little for others around him, a man whose only interest in life is money that can be made from exploiting other people.

The novel is set in Victorian London in the 19th century, a London that is very different to the London we know today; there was no welfare state, National Health Service or environmental laws. Real poverty existed and those that had no money either starved or ended up in the workhouses, debt prisons or turned to crime.

It is interesting that the novel is set during Christmas, a time that is traditionally for giving, a time to be spent with the family, and a time for reflection.  Scrooge at the beginning of the novel does not appreciate this, and calls everything ‘Humbug’, and it is only through his visits with the ghosts that he realizes that pleasure can be found from giving as well as receiving.

The picture that is painted by Dickens of life and the conditions in which people lived is very depressing by today’s standards: ‘The ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched; the people half naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.’ 

Throughout the novel Dickens focuses on many different aspects and issues about life in 19th century London.  He often writes about the buildings of London in the 19th century, a good example of this is represented when Dickens describes Scrooge’s own work place in which he runs his business. ‘Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire so much smaller that it looked like one coal.’  This shows that Victorian building where cold damp places where nobody really wanted to be. This also shows how Scrooge treats his overworked and hardworking clerk as he had to work in such conditions. Another example of the state of Victorian buildings is represented when Dickens describes and creates an image of the area of poverty and when he describes the home of Bob Cratchit’s his clerk and his family. Their house was small, damp and dirty and it had to house Bob Cratchit his wife and his six children. Scrooge paid his clerk, Bob Cratchit, a weekly salary of fifteen shillings. "Bob pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name".

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However, Dickens then describes in depth, Scrooges own house which shows the comparison between the social classes and the rich and the poor. Scrooge’s house is luxurious, and it has many expensive features compared to the poor. ‘Sitting room, Bed room, Lumber room, all as they should be’ , ‘You might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise’. This shows the scale of Scrooges house, most houses in the 19th century only had one or two rooms with one family living on each floor.   However nowadays many people would not think his house is luxurious, people would not like ...

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