Please explain Dickens' style of writing in A Christmas Carol.

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stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Dickens uses a third-person style of narration in A Christmas Carol, meaning that the narrator is detached from the action.

For most of the book, the story is told through straight-forward relating of the actions and comments of the characters. Readers are connected to the text through their identification with the situations and emotions being described.

At some points, the narrator seems to talk directly with the reader about what is happening in the story. These comments on the action are made without any involvement in the action; they are commentary on how the narrator reacts to the story at that point. For example:

I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail...You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was a dead as a door-nail.

rmhope's profile pic

rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Charles Dickens uses a conversational, informal, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek writing style in A Christmas Carol that shows he does not take himself too seriously. The tone assures the reader that, although the tale is a "ghost story" containing Gothic and fantastic elements, it will nevertheless be a safe and enjoyable read. 

In Stave One, the narrator starts off with a conversational reflection about dead door nails. Soon the narrator exclaims, "Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge!" This sets a conversational style that makes the reader feel as if a personal acquaintance were relaying the tale.

Dickens sprinkles sentence fragments throughout the narration, making the style less formal than typical novels of the time. Examples from Stave One are: "Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold," "Marley's face," and "Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room." 

The tongue-in-cheek style comes through with various humorous asides and comedic descriptions that pepper the narration. The second paragraph about dead door nails is one example, as is this word picture of the young Christmas caroler who decides to sing at Scrooge's counting house:

The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge's keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound ... Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.

The final paragraph of the book begins with a witticism: "He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle," making a play on words with "spirits" which would have been even more humorous in the days of the Temperance movement. 

The brilliant writing style used by Dickens in this novella endears it to readers and assures its place as a beloved classic that can be read multiple times without decreasing the pleasure the reader takes from it.


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