Why Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" The first edition of A Christmas Carol. The illustration on the left is of Mr. Fezziwig’s ball, one of Scrooge’s good memories. (Wikimedia Commons)
Why Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol"
Lexile

A Christmas Carol is more than a timeless Christmas story. Its author hoped that its lessons would be remembered all through the year.

A Christmas Carol was published in 1843. It ensured that Charles Dickens’ name would forever be linked with Christmas. In some ways, it’s a very Victorian story of urban circumstances. The extremes include wealth and poverty, industry and inability. But it also helped change Victorian society. That's according to historian Catherine Golden for the National Postal Museum blog. And that’s why Dickens wrote it.

It boosted people’s awareness of the plight of the poor in Victorian England. But Dickens also had a more immediate need, he needed cash. He’d spent too much on his 1842 American tour, Golden writes. He needed to support his large family. “Thinking creatively, he wrote himself out of his dilemma,” she reports.

The already well-known writer’s solution worked, to a degree. He sold out the first print run of 6,000 copies in a week. By the end of the next year, the book had sold more than 15,000 copies. That's according to Brandon Ambrosino writing for Vox. According to Michael Varese writing for The Guardian, the book had lavish bindings and a relatively low price. So much of that money didn’t make it back to the author. He was hoping to make at least $1000 from the book. “What a wonderful thing it is that such a great success should occasion me such intolerable anxiety and disappointment!” he wrote.

The book did have the cultural impact Dickens was hoping for, though. The writer came from a poor family and is remembered as a friend to the poor throughout his life. In the fall of that year, writes Ambrosino, the author had visited a Samuel Starey’s Field Land Ragged School, which taught poor children. “Dickens easily empathized with such children living in poverty, coming, as he did, from a poor childhood himself - a fact that set him apart from many other English authors,” writes Ambrosino.

“Even if economics motivated Dickens to write A Christmas Carol, his story stimulated charity,” writes Golden. Characters like Bob Cratchitt’s family, Scrooge’s lost love and of course Scrooge himself paint a vivid picture of a time and place where need was everywhere. This was especially true in London. And Scrooge’s redemption arc that anchors the story is an important voice to potential middle-class givers, writes Ambrosino. 

“Though he doesn’t give away any of his money [at the beginning of the story], and though he feels no sympathy for those less fortunate than he, Scrooge, as Dickens makes clear, is no criminal. He works hard for his money, day in and day out.”  

In the end, Scrooge becomes a sympathetic character. He believed that prisons and workhouses were enough social aid for those in poverty. This was a common enough belief in Victorian times. It is overwhelmed only when he realizes that the city needs something more. It needs empathy, in the form of charity.

Like Scrooge at the end of the story, when he becomes “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew,” Dickens himself was a charitable man. He made a good living, writes Ambrosino, “and he used his wealth and influence to help those less fortunate.”

Dickens may not have gotten rich off of the publication of A Christmas Carol, but he did make the world a little richer.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 134 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes "A Christmas Carol" timeless?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (84)
  • genesisd-orv
    12/07/2017 - 05:46 p.m.

    Christmas Carol is timeless because it came out in 1843 and people still read/watch it now.It also teaches a great leason to be thankful of what u have around the holidays.

  • jtd-lew
    12/15/2017 - 12:00 p.m.

    The book A Christmas Carol is a very great book that shows you to be thankful. Learning why it was written makes it a hundred times better.

  • andrewd-lew
    12/15/2017 - 01:06 p.m.

    It means so much to so many people. It shows that even the toughest people have a heart, and it shows what poverty so many others live in. It also shows that you should never take what you have for granted.

  • EsmeraldaV-del
    12/15/2017 - 06:51 p.m.

    According to the article, “A Christmas Carol” is more than timeless “ Its author hoped that its lessons would be remembered all through the year.”The book “A Christmas Carol” had a cultural impact.

  • PriscillaD-del
    12/15/2017 - 09:11 p.m.

    Some facts about this article is that the author hoped that its lessons would be remembered all through the year. Also, it boosted people’s awareness of the plight of the poor in Victorian England. Lastly, the book did have the cultural impact Dickens was hoping for, though. The writer came from a poor family and is remembered as a friend to the poor throughout his life. Dickens may not have gotten rich off of the publication of A Christmas Carol, but he did make the world a little richer.

  • PedroM-del1
    12/15/2017 - 09:53 p.m.

    A Christmas Carol is timeless because it will remain a Christmas tradition forever. Sorry folks, no funny things today. Thats all. Well, bye. ...bye.

  • ChloeR-del
    12/16/2017 - 10:49 a.m.

    This article is about the book "A Christmas Carol" written by famous British writer Charles Dickens in 1843. Catherine Golden, a historian, and two other researchers talk about the book and why it was written. They believed the book was inspired by Dickens’ own childhood in poverty, and some also think he wrote the book for money: he didn't grow up with much money and when he was an adult still didn't have much. This is why he wrote about poverty and how wealthy people should give to charity. Dickens tells about Ebenezer Scrooge, a heartless business owner, being visited by 3 Christmas ghosts so he won't be selfish and he will sympathize more with less fortunate than him. Dickens may not have made the profit he was expecting, but his book had a big impact on London’s Victorian society plagued by extreme inequalities between rich and poor during the industrial boom in England. With his book, Dickens has helped change people’s minds and he made his country and the world a little better!

  • AkshayB-del
    12/16/2017 - 12:19 p.m.

    This article is about that Charles Dickens wrote a book called "A Christmas Carol" that teaches you to be thankful to what you have. In the article it shows that many people live poverty and even the hardest or toughest people have a loving heart for others. It also shows that even if you are in poverty, you could still rise up and be something like the author did.

  • HannahR -del
    12/16/2017 - 02:26 p.m.

    What makes "A Christmas Carol" timeless is its author hoped that its lessons would be remembered all through the year and the extremes include wealth and poverty, industry and inability. But it also helped change Victorian society. It boosted people’s awareness of the plight of the poor in Victorian England.

  • JadeR-del
    12/16/2017 - 03:08 p.m.

    A summary of the article is why Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. The text says "In some ways, it’s a very Victorian story of urban circumstances. The extremes include wealth and poverty, industry and inability. But it also helped change Victorian society. That's according to historian Catherine Golden for the National Postal Museum blog. And that’s why Dickens wrote it."

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT