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?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (89)
  • SashaK-del
    12/17/2017 - 08:25 p.m.

    A Christmas Carol is timeless. Many people still read/watch it today and will continue to do so for years. It shows a great lesson to be thankful and not to be greedy. It also show to help others and to spread Christmas cheer.

  • JuliaA -del
    12/17/2017 - 08:43 p.m.

    The main part of this article is why Charles Dickens wrote a Christmas Carol. This story came out in 1843 and is still a timeless story to see or read. The story shows how to be fortunate of what you have specially at this time of the year.

  • JosephF-del
    12/17/2017 - 09:00 p.m.

    This article is about why Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol". The answer is because he wanted to link his name with the holiday of Christmas.

  • ChloeT-del
    12/17/2017 - 09:46 p.m.

    This article is about the story "A Christmas Carol" and its history. It was written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843. It was written to teach lessons. Dickens wrote the story to change Victorian society. It portrays perspectives from the super rich to the super poor. Because Dickens came from a poor family, he was able to write the story and create characters based on how it felt to be poor and the struggles that common people had. The book had a huge "cultural impact" and sold thousands of copies.

  • RushB-del
    12/17/2017 - 10:19 p.m.

    This article talks about the famous story by Charles Dickens called "A Christmas Carol". The article starts off by explaining the situation of Dickens when he wrote the story Dickens was quickly running out of money to support his family because of an American tour he spent to much money on, even though the book was amazing successful he didn't even make 1000 dollars. After that article dives deeper into the story of "A Christmas Carol" and how the book made the cultural impact Dickens was hoping for. The book is about a Scrooge a very wealthy man's redemption ark and how he realizes the really help the city he needs to donate money.

  • CherM-del
    12/17/2017 - 11:32 p.m.

    The Christmas carol was published in 1843 and people these days still read it, it has managed to stay modern even to this day. However Dickens was hoping it would have a cultural impact but it did have a impact historically, for we will always remember this read. It means a lot to people especially near Christmas.

  • JustinM-del
    12/18/2017 - 01:57 a.m.

    This article is about Why Charles Dickens wrote: "A Christmas Carol" and 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.but he did make the world a little richer.

  • EoinM-del
    12/18/2017 - 07:05 a.m.

    Well just the story of Christmas. It's shows a mean old man become good and people love that. Also the spirits show something amazing because your actions do have consequences.

  • MikhailP-del
    12/18/2017 - 07:25 a.m.

    Its about the book a Christmas carol and shows you to be thankful not just during christmas

  • OlivierJ-del
    12/18/2017 - 07:38 a.m.

    A Christmas Carol teaches a lesson to all people. It teaches that all tough people have a heart. It also states you have to be thankful for what you have around the holidays.

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