How does Charles Dickens relate Christmas Carol to the Victorian Era?
A Christmas Carol is one of Dickens' most popular stories but, beneath its message of reformation, is a strong indictment of Victorian society. That Dickens was inspired to write the book after reading a report, about the working conditions of children in the Staffordshire potteries, speaks volumes about its social message. He wanted to bring to light the darker side of industrial Britain; a place where poverty and deprivation were widespread and, quite often, ignored.
Nowhere is Dickens' social message more evident than in the first chapter when two gentlemen call on Scrooge and ask him to make a donation to their charitable fund for London's paupers. These people, banished to prisons and workhouses, were not based on fiction. Poverty was a genuine problem in the city and efforts to alleviate the problem were minimal. Scrooge's cold response represents the unhelpful attitude of much of the Victorian establishment:
(Scrooge)"I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.''
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die.''
"If they would rather die,'' said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
This last line is repeated to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Present in the third chapter. By reinforcing this point, Dickens sought to make people aware of the problem of poverty and its humanitarian implications. He wanted people to feel the plight of others and to help them, not to ignore their very existence.