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How Did “A Christmas Carol” Influence People in 1867?

Charles Dickens is one of the greatest authors of modern times. He gave us classics like Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. But did you know that his A Christmas Carol had a significant impact on the lives of those who read it?

Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” influenced many people since its publication. It promoted generosity and giving during Christmas. An American businessman was so moved by it, he closed his factory on Christmas and sent turkeys to all his workers.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol, or in the full title, A Christmas Carol, in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, was a novel written by Charles Dickens in 1843. The book follows the events that happened on Christmas in the life of the fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge. (Source: Britannica)

At the start of the novel, Scrooge is introduced as a selfish and greedy character. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts of Christmas. (Source: Hartford Stage)

The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past reveals snippets of Scrooge’s early life as a schoolboy, an apprentice, and a young man in love. The ghost aims to show Scrooge events from his past that led him to become bitter and miserly but were not always that way. (Source: Hartford Stage)

The Ghost of Christmas Present

This ghost shows that joy has little do with Scrooge’s wealth. The ghost shows Scrooge scenes of people sharing what little they have with each other, trying to show him the true meaning of the holiday, which is sharing and celebrating together. (Source: Hartford Stage)

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come or Future shows Scrooge a vision of how his life will end if he doesn’t change his ways. He will die despised and unmourned.

Scrooge then changes his ways, becoming generous and thoughtful. The story ends with him finding redemption and joy in giving. (Source: Hartford Stage)

Legacy

A Christmas Carol was published around Christmas 1843 in London when celebrating Christmas became more and more popular. The story helped marry the season to the notion of self-transformation and individual charities. The story helped propel the idea of giving during the holidays in Britain at that time.

Many famous people were deeply affected by Dickens’ story. The Scottish novelist is known for his works such as Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson generously shared his wealth with the poor after reading the book.

Another famous Scottish writer and historian, Thomas Carlyle, staged two huge Christmas dinners after reading A Christmas Carol. In the US, a businessman named Fairbanks watched Dickens read the story. He was so moved by it that he closed his factory for Christmas day and sent all his employees a turkey. (Source: Ann Parr)

Dickens’ Inspiration for the Book

Dickens wrote the novella in just a few weeks, yet it is still considered one of the greatest works in literature. The book was initially intended to be just a pamphlet with the title An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child. Dickens wanted to address a specific issue apparent in his day: the harsh labor conditions for women and children. (Source: Time)

Dickens was able to get a hold of a government report through his journalist friend. The piece was fashioned as a compilation of interviews with child laborers. Dickens read through the report accounts like eight-year-old children working eleven-hour workdays, dragging coal from mines. Dickens also read a testimony of girls who worked sixteen hours a day, six days a week, sewing dresses. These girls also lived just above the factory in small and cramped rooms.

Dickens wanted the public to learn about the horrors of poor laborers and their working conditions. He thought the best way to show it was through a story and not his original idea of an article in a pamphlet. (Source: Owlcation)

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