Posted in A Christmas Carol

What Was Dickens’ Purpose For Writing A Christmas Carol?

you’re studying A Christmas Carol, there’s a strong chance that you will be asked about Dickens’ purpose for writing it. While it might be tempting to say, “He was a writer. It was his job,” sadly, you won’t get any marks for that on your essays and exams. Don’t worry, though, QuickLits is here to help and we’ve got the answers you need!

To begin, let’s take a look at the Preface to A Christmas Carol. In this introduction to the text, we get a few words from Dickens himself:

“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”

So what exactly is the “Ghost of an idea” that Dickens is talking about?

Well,  A Christmas Carol is a story with three layers:

  • Firstly, it is a heart-warming Christmas story, designed to highlight the Christmas spirit and to be read aloud (as many Victorian families did).
  • Secondly, it is a story about a man’s transformation from cold-hearted miser to generous, friendly citizen.
  • Finally, it is also an allegory (a story with a deeper moral message), designed to make Dickens’ readers become more compassionate and charitable towards people in poverty.

So Dickens’ “Ghost of an idea” looks a bit like this:

Dickens' purposeWhen we think about Dickens’ purpose for writing, then, we need to think about these three different aspects. The best way to do this is through providing evidence from the text. To do this, check out the table though:

Purpose for Writing Evidence
Dickens wanted to write a story showing the importance of the Christmas spirit. The portrayal of the Cratchit family in Stave Two. Though they are poor, they are rich in love, devotion and affection for one another.
This is a story of Scrooge’s transformation from cold-hearted miser to perfect citizen. Compare the portrayal of Scrooge in Stave One with his portrayal in Stave Five.
This story is an allegory, encouraging readers to show compassion and charity to the poor. The characters of Ignorance and Want in Stave Three.

Remember: if you want the best marks your essays and exams, you must use evidence from A Christmas Carol to support your answer!

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