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Explain how Victorian society is criticized through A Christmas Carol.
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Middle School Teacher
I think that one aspect of Victorian society that Dickens criticizes is the idea of upper classes and wealth being so important. Dickens offers a fairly elemental argument in that value and wealth are not necessarily one in the same. Scrooge is wealthy. Yet, he comes to realize that his wealth has little value. The Cratchit family is not as wealthy, and yet, they have more in way of value. In Victorian society, the upper elite, individuals who wielded the most amount of power, were wealthy. Through Scrooge, Dickens is making the argument that these individuals might have wealth, but that does not automatically guarantee that they have value. Scrooge does not have real value until the end of the novel. Scrooge's money does not possess a true sense of worth until the novel's conclusion. In this, there is a criticism being offered in how Victorian society is constituted and what defines value within it.
I think that another aspect of Victorian society that is also critiqued is the notion of Christmas. Victorian Christmas represented a point in which the holiday was gaining popularity in England. However, Dickens must have seen that this acceptance is not consistent with the true meaning of a holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ. In the traditions that became part of Victorian Christmas such as decorating the tree, there is little that represents a true spirit of the day. This hollowness is embodied in Scrooge, who rejects the day, as a whole. Scrooge comes to embrace the full meaning of the holiday when he transforms his life. The idea that Scrooge becomes one who gives away his wealth is very Christian. Scrooge recognizes something larger than what is temporal and in this, he embraces the spirit of the day. Dickens might be criticizing the social notion of Christmas as lacking true spiritual meaning, which becomes Dickens' motivation behind why Scrooge embodies it.
Finally, I think that Dickens' work questions the social configuration of Victorian society. Any society that openly permits and accepts the presence of impoverished people as part of its social order cannot be seen as necessarily good. Dickens' work is questioning the value of a society where such stratification is evident. The presence of obsecenly rich people like Scrooge and others who are very poor and economically challenged is a social condition that the novel illuminates. Dickens' construction of Scrooge at the end is one in which there is a call to change this order. Scrooge becomes the agent of change in a social configuration that is predicated upon the acceptability of very wealthy people at its summit and very, very poor people at its large base. This social configuration is something that the work calls into question.
Posted by akannan on June 8, 2013 at 11:24 PM (Answer #1)
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