How would you explain the following statement: "Although Dickens's story, A Christmas Carol, is entertaining, even enthralling, it is mainly intended to educate"?

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perfectsilence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question can be best explained by focusing on the different aspects of A Christmas Carol that apply to it. First, this novel is very entertaining. Dickens is a master of setting a scene, and his rich descriptions of Victorian London put the reader "there." He starts with one of the best first lines in all of literature: "Marley was dead: to begin with." Immediately, the reader is pulled en media res (in the middle of things). Dickens isn't content to simply describe and inform, though. Rather, his narrator has a wry sense of humor and talks directly to the reader. A good example of this is in the paragraph that follows Dickens's statement that "Marley was as dead as a door-nail." The narrator then goes into a funny aside about the absurd nature of the saying "dead as a door-nail." This also helps make the story entertaining. Beyond that, the nature of the tale itself helps hold the reader's interest. Scrooge is a wonderfully sinister man. The Cratchits evoke sympathy, and then there are the ghosts. All of these things help make Scrooge's redemption tale entertaining, and the reader's desire to see things change, to see Scrooge improve and Tiny Tim live, contribute to making the story enthralling.  

Within this entertaining, funny story is also a clear desire to educate. Through the tale, Dickens has Scrooge shift from penny-pincher to philanthropist, but it is through the examples provided to Scrooge that the educational aspects of the novel are most present. In the story, Dickens juxtaposes Scrooge's miserly nature with the generosity of just about everybody else. Even Scrooge's old partner Marley, who was also a miser, returns from the dead to tell his tale of regret about how he acted when alive. With Marley are many other ghosts who also wander the streets, remorseful for the unkind, uncaring lives they led while alive. The spirits of Christmas also present Scrooge with scenes that educate him and the reader. The first spirit takes Scrooge back to his childhood and shows him the loving relationship he once had with his sister Belle. He is also shown his first job, working for a jovial, rich man named Old Fezziwig, who shared everything he had and made the world joyous by doing so. The Spirit of Christmas Present is the embodiment of the giving spirit of Christmas, taking Scrooge into the streets and showing him how even the poor who have very little are able to give richly through their kindness and love for one another. The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come reveals a dark, uncaring future to Scrooge in which Scrooge's belongings are looted after his death because of the man he was in life.

Through these examples, the message is clear: take care of one another, be kind, give freely of both money and love. Dickens does a masterful job of pulling the reader in through method and subject matter, and once the reader is hooked, he establishes his very clear message.

cp4000 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dickens was a Victorican author.  Victorian literature sometimes had a "didactic" tone (didactic means to teach something), though Victorian literature was usually more interested in exposing social injustice.

Often, Victorian authors would write stories that gave examples of bad people or people with problems so that their readers would know that they should NOT be like the main character in the novel.

Keep in mind that the things that Charles Dickens was educating about were "moral" issues directed at how to make a better society through the example of a single character.  One of the things that he taught his readers was how they should care about people more than money.

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A Christmas Carol

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