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"
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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.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes "A Christmas Carol" timeless?
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COMMENTS (89)
  • JohnB-del1
    12/16/2017 - 04:04 p.m.

    A Christmas Carol is more than a timeless Christmas story. Its author hoped that its lessons would be remembered all through the year. 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 was used to believe family was greater then the presents at Christmas.

  • ChloeR-del1
    12/16/2017 - 04:58 p.m.

    This is timeless because this a family friendly story to be thankful for what you have.

  • EmilyN-del1
    12/16/2017 - 06:43 p.m.

    A Christmas Carol is timeless because it was first published in 1843 and people still watch it now. It also shows kids that you should be thankful for everything in the holiday season.

  • KyleP-del1
    12/16/2017 - 06:57 p.m.

    This article is about how Charles Dickens name will forever be in Christmas season. He hoped that his lessons would always be remembered.

  • JasminderK-del
    12/16/2017 - 08:23 p.m.

    This story talks about how the Christmas story "a Christmas carol" came to be an the reason it was written, the story was written in 1843 by Charles Dickens as he needed more money to sustain his large family as he had spent all his money on his 1842 American tour "golden writes" the story became super successful and is still successful to this day.

  • TiffanyW-del
    12/16/2017 - 09:51 p.m.

    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.

  • AngelinaB-del
    12/17/2017 - 12:55 p.m.

    This article is about why Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol". Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol to ensure that his name would forever be linked to Christmas. A Christmas Carol also helped change Victorian society. It boosted people's awareness. However, Charles Dickson also wrote A Christmas Carol because he needed cash. He needed to support his large family. However, he did not become rich off the book. Although he was not rich, he helped make the world a little richer.

  • PoojaT-del
    12/17/2017 - 01:55 p.m.

    This article is about a Christmas Carol is more than a timeless Christmas story. Its author hoped that its lessons would be remembered all through the year. It was a very interesting article to read.

  • DavidN-del
    12/17/2017 - 07:35 p.m.

    It came out in 1843 and people still read and watch til today.

  • NathalyP-del
    12/17/2017 - 07:59 p.m.

    The story "A Christmas Carol" is timeless because ever since the year of 1843 the story is very well known throughout the years.

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