Posted in A Christmas Carol

How Does Dickens Present Poverty In A Christmas Carol?

Poverty is an important theme in A Christmas Carol. Remember that a theme is an idea or concept that an author explores in a story.  Usually, the purpose of the theme is to make an important statement or wider message. In the case of A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses lots of examples of poverty for precisely that reason: he wants us, the reader, to listen to what he has to say about poverty.

Before we delve into Dickens’ message, let’s take a look at some examples of poverty in A Christmas Carol and their supporting quotes:

Location Example of Poverty
Stave One The charitable collectors tell Scrooge about the hardships faced by the poor.

“Many thousands are in want of common necessaries, hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

Stave Three The image of the Cratchit family eating their meagre Christmas turkey and pudding.

“But nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family.”

Stave Four The description of the neighbourhood surrounding Old Joe’s shop.

“The ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched.”

Now that we’ve found some examples of poverty, we need to look at them a little more closely to understand more about how Dickens presents poverty in the story.

Analysing poverty in A Christmas Carol.

  • Firstly, the fact that there are so many examples suggests that poverty is a big problem. It can be found all over Victorian London, on every street and in every neighbourhood.
  • Secondly, poverty is not a choice. Lots of people end up living in poverty through no fault of their own. Take the Cratchit family, for example. We know that they are good, kind and honest people. We also know that Bob works very hard in return for (presumably) very little pay. Despite their efforts, the Cratchits remain poor.
  • Thirdly, Victorian England had institutions in place to help the poor, like the workhouse and the prison, but these were horrible, miserable places.


Inmates having lunch in a Victorian workhouse.


What is Dickens’ message about poverty?

Now that we’ve looked in more detail at the examples of poverty, it becomes clear that Dickens has a very sympathetic attitude towards the poor in A Christmas Carol. He views them as victims of circumstance, not as lazy people who refuse to work.

He also advocates the giving of charity to help ease the burden of poverty, as we see through the characters of the charitable collectors in Stave One. He also understands that the institutions designed to alleviate poverty, like the workhouse, are more miserable than poverty itself.


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Posted in A Christmas Carol

What Do The Three Ghosts Symbolise In A Christmas Carol?

As you probably already know, A Christmas Carol is full of symbols, those images and objects that have a deeper meaning. Some of the most important symbols in A Christmas Carol include the ghosts themselves, with each one representing a central idea or message in the story.

Let’s take a look in more detail.

What does the Ghost of Christmas Past symbolise?

The first ghost to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Past and, as his name suggests, it is his job to take Scrooge back in time. This purpose gives us a glimpse into the ghost’s symbolic significance: by showing Scrooge his past, the ghost shows us, the reader, how Scrooge came to be the man he is today. As such, the ghost represents learning from the past and understanding how the past affects the person we become.

You’ll also notice something really special about this ghost. He has a light shining from his head, as this quote from Stave Two shows:

“But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.”

As Scrooge relives his past, you’ll also notice that the light glows more strongly. It’s as though the light is responding to Scrooge’s acknowledgement of his memories.

At the very end of Stave Two, Scrooge tries to extinguish the light on the ghost’s head and fails to do so. This is really important because it shows that it’s impossible to erase our past. Whether the memories are good or bad, we cannot undo what has been done.

What does the Ghost of Christmas Present symbolise?

When the Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit Scrooge, you’ll notice that he brings with him a feast fit for a king. He fills the room with “delicious pears,” for example, “great joints of meat” and “barrels of oysters.” The ghost is also very welcoming towards Scrooge:

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in, and know me better, man.”

This entrance gives us a clue to the ghost’s symbolic meaning. Being so kind and generous, he represents the spirit of Christmas. That is, the welcoming, friendly, compassionate and generous feelings which are shared between people at Christmastime.

Later in this stave (Stave Three), Scrooge sees two children hiding under the ghost’s robe. They are Ignorance and Want – the personification of child poverty in Victorian England. To reinforce this idea, take a look at their description in the text:

“Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing.”

Symbolically, then, Ignorance and Want represent the problem of child poverty and help Dickens to reinforce the idea that society’s children are everyone’s responsibility. We must not stand by and let them deteriorate.

What does the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come symbolise?

In Stave Four, Scrooge meets with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Take a look at his description in the text:

“It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.”

Looking at this description, the ghost might remind you of the Grim Reaper and this gives us a clue to his symbolic role in the story. He represents death and, in Scrooge’s case, a fear of dying. For further evidence of this, take a look at the glimpses of the future that he shows to Scrooge, culminating in the scene where Scrooge comes face to face with his own grave. It is the ghost’s role, therefore, to show Scrooge what will happen if he does not change. He will not only die alone but people will be pleased that he has died.

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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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Posted in A Christmas Carol

Introducing the QuickLits Guide to A Christmas Carol

When it comes to Charles Dickens, are you a “bah, humbug” sort of person? Does reading  A Christmas Carol leaving you feeling as “hard and sharp as flint?”




Whether you love it or hate it, A Christmas Carol is guaranteed to be on the syllabus for students all over the world at this time of year, and that means that A Christmas Carol essays are just around the corner, too. Bah, humbug indeed.

But don’t worry, you won’t be needing a visit from three ghosts to help you with your A Christmas Carol quotes and analysis. In fact, our literature experts have been working hard to bring you the best possible study guide. They’ve done the searching, the analysis and laid it all out for you, stave by stave. They’ve even included a handy cheat sheet: a handy roundup of all the key themes, symbols and literary devices you could ever need!

This guide is also ideal for parents who want to help their kids with upcoming essays and exams.


Here’s what you’ll find inside the QuickLitsGuide to A Christmas Carol:

  • Full overview of how QuickLits’ unique method works
  • A Christmas Carol in Context
  • What is an Allegory?
  • A Christmas Carol Stave One quotes and analysis
  • A Christmas Carol Stave Two quotes and analysis
  • A Christmas Carol Stave Three quotes and analysis
  • A Christmas Carol Stave Four quotes and analysis
  • A Christmas Carol Stave Five quotes and analysis
  • A Christmas Carol Cheat Sheet – a full roundup of all the key themes, literary devices and their supporting quotes.

Click here to buy.

A Christmas Carol Cover

Thank you and happy reading 🙂