Study Guide

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1999 TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Published by Gale Cengage

A Christmas Carol has never been considered Dickens' finest work by literary critics, but from its first publication it was a popular favorite. It sold an impressive six thousand copies at its first printing in 1843 and was quickly reprinted in numerous authorized and unauthorized editions.

Today, critics seldom discuss A Christmas Carol in part because of its universal popularity. Also this short novel is considered not emblematic of Dickens' work in general. Although critical reaction to his novels has been favorable, commentators tend to deride the length of the books he produced. David Cecil, for example, was critical of Dickens' novels when he commented in his book The Victorian Novelists: Essays in Reevaluation: "He cannot construct, for one thing. His books have no organic unity; they are full of detachable episodes, characters who serve no purpose in furthering the plot."

It is a criticism that did not apply to the development of ideas in this short novel. Cecil went on to point to Dickens' finest quality: his ability to fill every scene he wrote with exact, convincing details. Famed novelist Anthony Trollope had it wrong, according to Cecil, when he charged that Dickens' writing was "exaggerated." He emphasized that what might seem excessive was actually Dickens' strength: "Scott's imagination and Emily Bronte's were of a finer quality, Jane Austen's was more exactly articulated, but none of them had an imagination at once so forceful, so varied and so self-dependent as Dickens."

In addition,...

(The entire section is 647 words.)