illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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Sources for Further Study

Donovan, Frank. Dickens and Youth. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1968. A discussion of Dickens’ extensive use of children in his novels. A Christmas Carol is considered in detail, in two ways. Scrooge’s unhappy childhood is considered as the major cause for his present loneliness and misanthropy. The children of Bob Cratchit, especially Tiny Tim, are examined as examples of innocents who are happy even when their circumstances are difficult.

Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Dickens: Being a Good-Natured Guide to the Art and Adventures of the Man Who Invented Scrooge. New York: Penguin, 2001. A lighthearted and enthusiastic biography of Dickens that includes critical summaries of sixteen of his novels, with illustrations and references to popular culture that elucidate Dickens’s work and demonstrate his influence.

Gissing, George. Charles Dickens: A Critical Study. 1898. Boston: Adamant Media, 2001. A biography and critical analysis written only thirty years after Dickens’s death by a prolific Victorian novelist who shared Dickens’s concern for exposing social problems.

Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: William Morrow, 1988. A comprehensive biography of the author, with more than 500 pages of text and more than 100 illustrations. The focus is on Dickens’ psychological makeup, and how it affected his written works.

Newey, Vincent. The Scriptures of Charles Dickens: Novels of Ideology, Novels of the Self. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2004. An examination of Dickens’s view of humankind’s options for living in a world of flux, including a chapter exploring “A Christmas Carol’s” view of conversion.

Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth Century England. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. An engaging look at social customs and everyday objects from the period in which Dickens’s novels are set.

Prickett, Stephen. Victorian Fantasy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979. A study of fantasy writings in Victorian England. Chapter 2, “Christmas at Scrooge’s,” discusses the use of fantasy elements in A Christmas Carol and Dickens’ other Christmas stories.

Slater, Michael, ed. Dickens 1970. Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: Stein & Day, 1970. An anthology of essays on Dickens’ works, on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of his death. Particularly of interest is Angus Wilson’s article “Dickens on Children and Childhood,” which focuses on Tiny Tim as a symbol of innocence, hope, and faith.

Stone, Harry. Dickens and the Invisible World: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Novel-Making. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979. A treatment of Dickens’ use of fantasy elements in his literary works. The fifth chapter focuses on five short works, including A Christmas Carol. The emphasis is on the emotions of the characters as reflected in their supernatural experiences.

For Further Reference

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Clark, William Ross. "The Hungry Mr. Dickens," in Discussions of Charles Dickens, edited by William Ross Clark. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1961. Dickens's lean early years gave him an obsession with food. Clark cites A Christmas Carol as an example to make his point.

Fielding, K. J. Charles Dickens: A Critical Introduction. Riverside Studies in Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965. Fielding surveys Dickens's career as an author.

Goldberg, Michael. Carlyle and Dickens. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1972. Goldberg traces some of Scrooge's remarks in A Christmas Carol to Thomas Carlyle's "Chartism."

Hardy, Barbara. "The Change of Heart in Dickens's Novels," in Dickens: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967. Conversions are frequent in Dickens's novels. This essay explains their function in his work.

Johnson, Edgar. "A Christmas Carol, Biography of a Classic," in Saturday Review of Literature, December 30, 1967. Johnson traces the origin of Dickens's most famous short story.

———. Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph, 2 vols. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952. The best biography of Dickens is also a perceptive critical study of his works.

Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and the Short Story. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. Dealing exclusively with Dickens's shorter fiction, this book shows that Dickens valued A Christmas Carol and the other Christmas stories as opportunities to give his imagination full play.

Welsh, Alexander. The City of Dickens. London: Oxford University Press, 1971. Acquainted from childhood with the more negative aspects of London, Dickens uses the contrast of city and country in many of his works.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Cecil, David. "Charles Dickens," in Early Victorian Novelists: Essays in Revaluation. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1935, pp. 37-74.

Chesterton, G. K. "'Great Expectations,'" in Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens. E. P. Dutton and Co., 1911, pp. 197-206.

———. Charles Dickens: the Last of the Great Men. The Press of the Readers Club, 1942, p. 79.

Pool, Daniel. Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters: The Rows and Romances of England's Great Victorian Novelists. HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, p. 178.

Potter, Dale H. The Thames Embankment: Environment, Technology, and Society in Victorian London. University of Akron Press, 1998.

Symons, Julian. Charles Dickens. Arthur Barker Ltd., London, 1951.

Further Reading

Hardy, Barbara. "The Change of Heart in Dickens' Novels," in Victorian Studies, Vol. V, 1961-62, pp. 49-67. Examines the recurring theme of change in Dickens' works.

Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988. Among the many biographies of the author available, this is clearly one of the most insightful and readable.

Page, Norman O. A Dickens Companion. Schocken Books, 1984. Page, a specialist in Victorian literature, offers a cornucopia for students of Dickens' plot synopses, character listings, and chronologies.

Poole, Mike. "Dickens and Film: 101 Uses for a Dead Author," in The Changing World of Charles Dickens, edited by Robert Guiddings. Barnes [and] Noble Books, 1983, pp. 148-62. Because this book has been adapted to film so often, it is interesting to look at how Hollywood has interpreted his work.

Stone, Harry. "A Christmas Carol: Giving Nursery Tales a Higher Form," in Dickens and the Invisible World: Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Novel-Making. Indiana University Press, 1979, pp. 119-45. Stone explores the fairy tradition of Victorian England, and his reading of this novel is interesting in its depth of social and biographical background.

Media Adaptations

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  • One of the most highly regarded versions of A Christmas Carol stars Alastair Sim as Scrooge, directed by Brian Desmond Hurst. Released in 1951, it is available from VCI Home Video.
  • Another praiseworthy version of the novel is the 1984 made-for-television movie with George C. Scott, David Warner, and Edward Woodward. It was released on video by Twentieth Century Fox in 1999.
  • In December of 1999, TNT and Hallmark Entertainment premiered a new movie version with Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, and Joel Grey starring. It was directed by David Jones.
  • Michael Caine plays Scrooge, Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit, and the Great Gonzo plays Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol, released on video in 1997 from Jim Henson Video Co.
  • Scrooged (1988) is a humorous adaptation of Dickens' novel, with Bill Murray as a television executive. The movie was directed by Richard Donner and is available from Paramount Home Video.
  • This story has been adapted to the stage, screen, and television so many times that there is an entire book on the subject. A Christmas Carol and its Adaptations, written by Fred Guida, includes scenes from old kinescope films and foreign productions. It was published by McFarlane and Co. in 1999.

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Historical and Social Context