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What do the children "Want" and "Ignorance'' symbolize in A Christmas Carol?

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted May 24, 2013 at 12:46 PM via web

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What do the children "Want" and "Ignorance'' symbolize in A Christmas Carol?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 24, 2013 at 2:15 PM (Answer #1)

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Ignorance and Want represent society’s abandonment of the poor and the consequences of that abandonment.

Above all else, A Christmas Carol is allegorical.  Dickens was a strong proponent of taking care of society’s poor and downtrodden, and this is why he chose to represent them in children.  Most people will have more sympathy for children than adults.  Dickens wanted to make the case that the adults we see as criminals started out as poor and abused children.

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree; but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. (Stave 3)

Ultimately, the little boys will turn into pickpockets and thieves (like Oliver Twist), and the girls will turn into prostitutes (like Nancy).  Unlike most high and might Christians of the Victorian era, Dickens did not look down on the poor.  He even started a charity house for prostitutes, because he recognized that these were the people that society threw away.

Dickens tells us to beware ignorance more than want.  This is telling, because it demonstrates the root of the problem.  If our poor are not educated, they have no chance to escape the cycle of poverty.  Want, or hunger and need, is important.  It comes from ignorance though.  We need to educate and take care of our young people so that they don't have children that are just as badly off as they are.

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